Rural crime: fly-tipping

Continuing our focus for Rural Crime Week, the CLA’s Jane Harrison discusses government changes to fixed penalty notices and provides guidance if you become a victim of fly-tipping

Earlier in the year, following years of campaigning by the CLA, we were pleased to see that progress is being made in the fight against fly-tipping. This includes increased penalty fines which have led to an overall decrease in incidences.

Despite the overall decrease in numbers, these figures fail to reflect the full scale of the crime, as increasing reports of fly-tipping on private rural land are not included.

Two-thirds of all farmers and landowners have at some stage been a victim

However, hundreds of thousands of offences on private land are going unrecorded, as farmers often have so little faith in the ability of the police or council to deal with fly-tipping that they simply bear the cost of removing rubbish themselves.

It’s not just the odd piece of litter blotting the landscape, but tonnes of household and commercial waste which can often be hazardous – even including asbestos and chemicals - risking the safety of people and animals. This often requires costly expert treatment to remove.

The maximum fine for fly-tipping is £50,000 or 12 months in prison, but this is rarely enforced. This means landowners pay on average £1,000 to remove the waste, but in some cases have paid up to £100,000 to clear up other people’s mess, or risk facing prosecution themselves.

The UK Government’s promises to clamp down on fly-tipping on private land are yet to yield serious results. It seems that criminals simply do not fear prosecution. Ministers should look urgently at increasing the penalties for convicted fly-tippers, and properly resource rural police forces to ensure they are held to account. Without more progress, landowners, rather than criminals, will continue to pay the price.

The CLA recently responded to Defra’s consultation on amendments to the use of fixed penalty receipts for litter, fly-tipping and breach of household waste duty of care.

Fly-tipping enforcement

The government believes that taking proportionate and effective enforcement action against people who intentionally or carelessly damage their local environment is a practical step authorities can take to change behaviour and deter others from offending. In the recent Anti-social Behaviour Action Plan, the government wanted to see councils take a much tougher approach to litter and fly-tipping, and see that Defra take steps to facilitate this.

Fixed penalty notices (FPNs) have been raised to the upper limits for these offences this year, allowing local authorities greater freedom to set the rates that offenders should pay. The plan also said that revenue from these fines should be reinvested locally in clean up and enforcement – meaning perpetrators pay for local councils to continue toughening their approach in future years. The CLA supports this approach, and in addition, would also like to see the revenue used for cleaning up fly-tipping on privately-owned land.

Fly-tipping guidance

Members are often reluctant to report incidents of fly-tipping as they have suffered from poor experiences when no action has been taken. However, we would encourage all members who are affected by fly-tipping to report the incident to the police, local council and the Environment Agency. Although nothing may happen at the time, these agencies do plot incidents and often a ‘hot spot’ will become apparent. Only then will consideration be made to put in the resources to crack down on the problem.

Another method of reporting to add to statistics is through a fly-tipping app called ClearWaste. This is a new completely free app to combat fly-tipping and reports can be posted anonymously. Local councils are notified by ClearWaste of reports of fly-tipped waste on public land in their area. Landowners who have fly-tipped rubbish on their own land can source quotes from licenced waste carriers. The app is available to download on your iPhone or Android smartphone too.

Rural Crime

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Jane Harrison Rural Adviser, CLA North