Three men who were the subject of a failed prosecution by the Environment Agency over the use of tyre bales to create riding surfaces are to sue the Agency for up to £20million.

The initial case — the largest ever brought by the Agency, at a cost of £2m — also dragged in event rider Lucy Wiegersma’s father, Hendrik.

Mr Wiegersma, who had used the tyre bales to build schooling facilities, was acquitted of dumping illegal waste at the end of an eight-week trial.

The judge said the case should never have come to court and that the law relating to the use of tyre bales in this way needed “clarifying”.

Now, the businessman who produced the recycled bales says he and his colleagues will sue the Environment Agency.

Tom Dunn, 26, an amateur showjumper from Taunton, said he and his colleagues lost more than £8m in cancelled contracts during the three years it took for the case to come to court.

“We had very large waste management companies giving us substantial contracts and, on the basis of the case brought against us, we lost a lot of business,” he told H&H.

Mr Dunn is a former partner of Recycled Construction Systems Ltd (RCS). The case against him finally ended at Exeter Crown Court on 1 February this year.

Mr Dunn, his father Nigel and fellow businessman Lawrence Poole were cleared of dumping illegal waste at an earlier hearing. But the company was fined £1,000 for storing tyres illegally in a warehouse in east Devon.

RCS was ordered to pay more than £26,000 costs.

The Agency had claimed the tyres were illegal waste, but Mr Dunn and his colleagues argued it was a legitimate form of recycling that benefited all involved.

At an earlier hearing, the jury ruled his basic operation was not illegal, but Mr Dunn was convicted of exporting waste tyres to Vietnam illegally.

Mr Dunn added: “The Environment Agency’s enforcement teams are running around with taxpayers’ chequebooks. It is alarming to see how a public authority can squander millions of pounds.”

In a statement, the Agency stressed that it had acted “to protect the environment”.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (7 March 2013)