Newly-released figures from Defra today show that there were more than a million incidents of fly-tipping on public land in the last year – and more than 100,000 in the South East alone.
Councils dealt with 1.09 million fly-tipping incidents in 2021/2022, though these figures only account for waste illegally dumped on public land that has been reported to the authorities. Representing around 27,000 rural businesses across England and Wales, the Country Land & Business Association (CLA) believes these figures only tell half of the story.
Many fly-tipping incidents occur on privately-owned land, painting an even more damaging picture of the financial burden and environmental impact fly-tipping brings. One CLA member is so badly affected he pays £50,000 a year to clear up waste.
This highlights the need to change the current fining and imprisonment laws, which are not often enforced and do not deter criminals.
Some of the rises in cases year-on-year
Folkestone and Hythe, Kent – up 52% (1,779 to 2,706)
Cherwell, Oxfordshire – up 54% (652 to 1,001)
Crawley, Sussex – up 18% (1,464 to 1,732)
Isle of Wight – up 14% (749 to 855)
West Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire – up 28% (1,188 to 1,524)
Maidstone, Kent – up 16% (2,952 to 3,418).
CLA South East represents thousands of farmers, landowners and rural businesses in Kent, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and the Isle of Wight.
Regional Director Tim Bamford said: “These fly-tipping figures barely scratch the surface of a crime that’s blighting rural communities and damaging the rural economy. Two-thirds of all farmers and landowners have at some stage been a victim.
“But hundreds of thousands of offences on private land are going unrecorded, with farmers bearing 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.
“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.
“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 farmers, not the criminals, will continue to pay the price.”
Josh Dugdale, of the Wasing Estate in Berkshire, has suffered a catalogue of fly-tipping, and has kept a register of more than 50 separate incidents over the last few years, calling it a “nightmare”. Items dumped include fridges, beds, wardrobes, mattresses, heaters, asbestos and children’s play equipment.
Mr Dugdale said: “Fly-tipping is a constant issue for us which has taken up hours of precious time over many years. It’s a symptom of a malaise of disconnection to the countryside, and is very frustrating to those of us who live in and care about our neighbourhood. Why should we have to clear up someone else’s mess? It’s extraordinary behaviour that they feel they need to go to the effort of driving to dump it in our backyard. It’s totally unacceptable.
“Anyone caught fly-tipping should automatically be fined and given long hours of community service clearing up rubbish from our beautiful roadside verges or, worse, rivers. It’s the only way to show people that littering is an activity devoid of any semblance of mature civilised behaviour. The government needs to be stronger in showing how important this issue is, that it supports responsible mature behaviour but has no truck with the idiots that leave their rubbish for us to clear up.”
Sam Biles, who farms in Calbourne, Isle of Wight, has seen numerous items dumped in the village. He said: “The problem of fly-tipping seems to be getting worse. We are in the Island’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it is such a shame when people dump their rubbish in our beautiful countryside rather than take it to appropriate disposal facilities.
“In the last year I have seen tyres, asbestos, household rubbish and builders’ waste dumped, some of which is not only an eyesore but also has environmental and health implications. At the end of the day, someone has to spend time and money removing this waste. We as local people need to be vigilant and report all instances of fly-tipping to the police and council.”
Nicholas Verney, of the Claydon Estate near Buckingham, has suffered several incidents of fly-tipping, with items such as black bags of garden waste, syringes, tyres, bags of narcotics and even a plastic baby bath dumped in gateways, lay-bys and ditches.
He said: “While the incidents we’ve suffered are smaller in scale than some, they are increasing in regularity. Our local authority has to date been very helpful in collecting and disposing of waste, but doing so puts a burden on the authority at a time when we all know that budgets are being stretched further and further.
“Fly-tipped waste is also damaging to nature and potentially dangerous to local people as it is often dumped in areas frequented by dog walkers and families, and we have had incidences of bags of narcotics, syringes and other hazardous materials dumped in these locations. Fly-tipping is selfish, irresponsible, dangerous and should be stopped.”
Sue Green, of the Montreal Estate near Sevenoaks, said: “It is a shame that fly-tipping is now almost accepted. We all need to work hard to prevent it and prosecute those who offend.
“I use the wonderful Country Eye app to report these incidences, and for us it works very efficiently and the local council does respond.”
Simon Porter, who farms in Crondall, Hampshire, has experienced a series of fly-tipping incidents recently. He said: “In the last two weeks we have had builders’ rubbish tipped in a lay-by and at a road junction, mainly paving slabs, concrete and empty filler tubes, which the council did clear quite promptly. Last week we had three black bin liners filled with rubbish dumped on a woodland edge.
“We also had a tipper deposit its whole load of rubbish in the middle of the road at 10pm one night. The rubbish was from a garage or garden shed clearance. Fortunately, our cameras recorded the tipper passing and then returning two minutes later. Details have been given to both Hampshire County Council and the police.”
Liz Mouland, who farms in the Sittingbourne area, regularly reports fly-tipping incidents and even caught one culprit in the act, but not before dumping a tipper load of rubbish on her land. She said: “We examined our gate and discovered he had put their own padlock onto our chain which was very cunning, and then as we drove around we found the pile of rubbish.
“We feel we were ‘lucky’ to have found this man when and where we did, otherwise we could have had multiple lorry loads dumped that day.
“We have now barricaded that gateway with concrete slabs, which so far has been effective but in terms of farming use it is inconvenient.”