Former scrap boss Lee Averies has been warned about 'dissipating assets' as the authorities seek to claw back his ill gotten gains following fires at his yards.

And Judge Jason Taylor QC branded the costs of the case 'eye watering' having heard the 49-year-old is being funded by legal aid.

Averies was spared jail and banned from the waste business in October 2016 after admitting three offences against the Environment Protection Act.

He is now being pursued under the Proceeds of Crime Act as the authorities try to recover any benefit he had from his offending: thought to be in excess of £1m.

However Averies claims the amount should be significantly lower and his lawyers also insisted that he is not hiding any assets.

Averies was not at Swindon Crown Court for an administrative hearing in advance of the case being decided next March.

Sailesh Mehta, for the Environment Agency, told the judge they had submitted a letter to the court outlining their concerns about movements of money or capital.

He said "There is alleged dissipation of assets. Your Honour can see from the letter why we are concerned.

"What we say is: the reason we raise it in open court, do not be surprised if we then, in March or a new date, say assets have been wrongly dissipated."

Jamas/(corr) Hodivala, for Averies, replied "They are not being dissipated."

Earlier he told the court they did not accept much of the case being put forward against his client by the Environment Agency and would need a contested hearing.

As he was legally aided he said he would have to apply for funding for reports from experts, including a forensic accountant costing £40,000.

The judge commented "The fees are eye watering," before adjourning the case to Monday March 18 for a pre-trial review.

A week later the two sides are to put their cases before the judge who will decide how much the defendant gained from crime and what his disposable assets are.

Averies, of The Marsh, Wanborough, and his brother David, 41, of Dydale Road, had been due to stand trial two years ago until entering guilty pleas before a jury could be sworn in.

They admitted ‘by their consent, connivance or neglect’ allowing their companies to breach the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

The prosecution came after huge fires ravaged through their Swindon Skips Ltd depot at Brindley Close, on Cheney Manor, twice between 2013 and 2015.

And in the summer of 2014 the Averies Recycling site at Marshgate had the huge fire which burned for more than 57 day, spewing pollution across the town.

As well as being put on a one year suspended sentence Averies was made subject to a criminal behaviour order, similar to an ASBO, banning him from working in the business for five years.

David was fined and disqualified from being a company director for three years.

The latest hearing came just days after the council approved a car disposal company taking over the Marshgate site.

Stephen Bowers, 40, who runs Swindon Metal Recycling has bought the site from the Averies who planners were told had no interest in his business