Fly tipping figures ‘barely scratch the surface’ as incidents rise in the South West

The government’s newly released report on fly-tipping has revealed that many local authorities across the South West have recorded substantial increases in the number of reported incidents.
Fly tipping

The government’s newly released report on fly-tipping has revealed that many local authorities across the South West have recorded substantial increases in the number of reported incidents. Yet according to the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) the latest figures for rural crime that blots the landscape ‘barely scratch the surface’.

According to the latest report issued by the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), statistics for 2022/23 show local authorities in England dealt with 1.08 million fly-tipping incidents, a decrease of 1% from the 1.09 million reported in 2021/22.1

Despite a decrease in the national picture, many rural areas in the South West saw a marked increase in the number of fly-tipping incidents. This contributed to a small overall increase across the region, with 49,954 incidents reported in 2022/23 compared to 49,833 for the year 2021/22.

The highest number of incidents reported in the region was in South Somerset which saw total incidents increase from 478 in 2021/22 to 801 in 2022/23 – an increase of 67.5%. Meanwhile, incidents in North Somerset increased by 41.7%.

Other rural local authorities recording increases were:

  • West Devon – 22.4%
  • Forest of Dean – 19.4%
  • South Hams – 14.4%
  • Cotswold – 8.4%
  • Sedgemoor – 6.7%
  • Dorset – 5.3%
  • South Gloucestershire – 3.6%
  • Mendip – 1%

The lowest number of incidents reported was in Torridge, in north west Devon, which had 193 recorded incidents – up from two the previous year.

However, Defra’s fly-tipping figures exclude incidents on private land, with the CLA South West - which represents the interest of farmers, landowners and rural businesses in Wiltshire, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Somerset – believing the true scale of the issue is even bigger as increasing amounts of unwanted waste is being dumped on private property.

It says that two-thirds of all farmers and landowners have at some stage been a victim of fly-tipping, resulting in thousands of offences 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.

CLA South West Regional Director Ann Maidment commented: “Fly-tipping is a crime that’s blighting rural communities, with incidents on private land going unrecorded on a mass scale. Many councils across the region may be cracking down on it but these latest figures do not reflect the true scale of the issue.

“Far too often farmers and landowners bear the cost of removing rubbish, and on average they pay £1,000 to remove the waste. Fly-tipping is not a victimless crime - in some cases they have paid up to £100,000 to clear up other people’s mess or risk facing prosecution themselves.

“It’s not just litter blotting the landscape, but tonnes of household and commercial waste which can often be hazardous – even including asbestos and chemicals – endangering farmers, wildlife, livestock, crops and the environment.”

In 2022, the government introduced measures to crack down on fly-tipping, including more funding for local authorities.

CLA President Victoria Vyvyan added: “While courts can sentence offenders to prison or unlimited fines, prosecutions are rare and criminals clearly do not fear the system. We are calling for local authorities to help clear fly-tipping incidents on private as well as public land, while the various enforcement agencies must be properly trained and resourced. Without more progress farmers, not the criminals, will continue to pay the price.”

The CLA has spent many years campaigning on the issue and introduced a five-point action plan to tackle fly-tipping. It calls on local authorities, the Environment Agency and police forces to commit to stronger action against the increase of fly-tipping on private land and remove the landowners’ liability to remove waste dumped on their property.

The organisation also welcomed the ban on DIY waste charges at recycling centres which came into effect on January 1 2024, saying that by making it easier for people to get rid of their waste they would be less likely to dump it illegally.