It was good to speak to BBC Suffolk presenter Mark Murphy recently to discuss the radio station's aptly titled campaign Don’t be a Tosser that has relaunched with the aim of raising awareness of the issue of littering and fly-tipping.
Rarely a month goes by that we don’t hear from our members; a diverse range of farmers, landowners and rural businesses, who alert us to the fact that they have been a victim of fly-tipping.
The severity of the incidents can vary from large articulated lorry loads of hazardous waste being dumped on land – often associated with serious organised crime – to tyres, building and DIY waste, old furniture and mattresses being dumped at farm gates and in woods, fields, watercourses and ditches.
Our research suggests that almost two thirds of farmers and landowners are affected by fly-tipping each year, with some targeted multiple times each month. This results in a vicious cycle of costly clean-ups by the victims who bear the burden of waste crime. We need to take action to tackle this blight on our beautiful countryside that is dangerous to wildlife and pollutes soil and waterways.
The CLA is advocating that if a landowner removes the waste from their land, they should then be able to dispose of it free of charge at a local authority disposal site. As it stands currently, landowners affected by a fly-tipping incident can be subject to prosecution if the waste is not removed quickly enough. This is simply unjust.
In Hertfordshire, the police and crime commissioner has set up a fund where landowners who are victims of fly-tipping can request money to cover the cost of clearing the waste. Using £20,000 generated by the Proceeds of Crime Act businesses are able to apply for financial aid to assist with clean-up operations. Sadly this type of scheme is rare.
Another frustration felt by landowners and farmers is that the penalties handed out to those caught fly-tipping do not reflect the seriousness of the damage caused to land.
Prosecution levels for this crime are ludicrously low with the punishments handed out often amounting to only a few hundred pounds. This is simply not good enough, especially when the average cost to clean up a fly-tipping incident is around a thousand pounds and can be much more than this. The seizure of vehicles used for fly-tipping must be the default penalty to send a clear signal that criminals will face damaging consequences if they are caught.
Law-abiding members of the public can also inadvertently find themselves caught up in fly-tipping incidents too. If you use someone to remove your household waste you must ensure they have a waste carriers licence or you run the risk of your rubbish being dumped in a field. If it is, then you as the owner of the waste are liable for prosecution.
It is crucial to report all incidents of fly-tipping when you see them so that those responsible for investigating them can build up a bank of intelligence and target those areas that are hit hardest.
The Environment Agency, local authorities and the police all have an important role to play in tackling fly-tipping and it is crucial they work collaboratively on this issue. They must ensure that all reports of fly-tipping – however big or small – are investigated thoroughly and intelligence that they gain about the criminal activity should always be shared between the organisations.
If you have suffered from fly-tipping or are fed up of seeing waste dumped in your local community I would urge you to write to your local MP about the problem. If politicians do not know about the problem and how it affects landowners and the wider community, they are unlikely to understand the extent and impact of this crime.
Nick Sandford, Acting Regional Director, Country Land and Business Association (CLA)