Rural communities at tipping point

CLA Regional Surveyor Tim Bamford says it’s time for action as the rise in fly-tipping incidents is blighting rural communities

On Wednesday, the government told us what most of us already knew, that the illegal dumping of waste is an increasing blight on the country.

The much-delayed 2019/2020 figures, normally announced in the autumn, suggested approximately 1 million incidents of fly-tipping had been reported, a rise of 2% from the previous year. This is a lot and anyone would be right in thinking this. But, it only shows half the story.

This is because these reported figures only show incidents on public land. So all of those examples of household waste left in farm gates, or bags of green waste thrown over a hedge or huge truckloads of tyres unceremoniously dumped in the middle of a field, are ignored and forgotten by our Office of National Statistics. It’s not directly their fault, it’s just that the data is gathered by local authorities who are only responsible for incidents on land within their control.

This leads me on to what is understandably our members’ biggest issue. Not only are incidents on private land ignored by the national figures, they are also not the responsibility of the authority to clear up, that I am afraid falls squarely at the feet of farmers and landowners. A Defra trial, which the CLA were involved in to look at incidents on private land, met an untimely end during the first Covid-19 lockdown, so we don’t have the evidence we would like. But it would be unsurprising if, annually, farmers and landowners see hundreds of thousands of individual fly-tips. At an average cost of £800 to clear up, the true cost to landowners is astronomical.

The CLA knows how important this issue is to our membership. We work both nationally and regionally to forge partnerships with key organisations who have the ability to solve some of these problems. At a national level, the National Fly-Tipping Prevention Group consists of government departments, local authorities, legal services and key stakeholders such as the CLA. The group’s aim is to work collaboratively to prevent and tackle fly-tipping.

Regionally, the CLA work in partnership with authorities to highlight the issues and increase preventative methods. The goal, to stamp out this problem.

The CLA has put together a five-point action plan on the subject but the principle areas we are working to influence are:

  • Levels of enforcement and financial penalties are simply not high enough. While the maximum fine at a Magistrates’ Court is £50,000, the reality is that if a culprit is caught, they are handed a fixed penalty notice at £200. This is not prohibitive enough, and we are working with others to change this.
  • Encourage further partnership work and appoint both national and regional Fly-Tipping Tsars whose responsibility it is to oversee this issue and promote education. Some counties have this but many do not.
  • The transport and disposal of waste is meant to be controlled through the Waste Carriers Licence although, in practice, this is not fit for purpose and we would like this system improved
  • The CLA do not believe that it is reasonable that the clear-up costs of fly tipped waste on private land falls to the landowner. Rural businesses are already facing unprecedented financial and social pressure and we are lobbying for this responsibility to change.

Ultimately, fly-tipping and wider rural crime issues, faced by rural businesses, is at an unprecedented level and we aim to help members. This is a numbers game and to make significant inroads, we need to highlight further these issues and would therefore ask that members report all incidents to their local authority.

The aim of this is simple. The more noise we make, the better.

Key contact:

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Tim Bamford Regional Director, CLA South East