A rise in organised criminal fly-tipping activity has prompted farming organisations to call for a change in the law.
New figures from Defra show incidents of fly-tipping on public land rose by eight per cent across England in 2018-19, equating to over a million incidents in the past year.
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) said the figures do not reflect the true scale of the problem, as many incidents occur on privately-owned land. However, the numbers do indicate that such crimes are once again on the rise.
National Farmers Union (NFU) vice president Stuart Roberts said: “These new figures highlight a situation that continues to spiral out of control, now affecting two thirds of all farmers with potentially a large number of unrecorded incidents taking place on private land.
“It’s a nightmare for our members being bombarded with rubbish that’s illegally dumped – costly and time consuming to remove, dangerous to human health, harmful to wildlife and livestock and, in some cases, fly-tipped waste pollutes watercourses and contaminates land.”
Stuart said many farmers do all they can to prevent fly-tipping – installing gates, barriers, warning signs, security cameras and lights – but in many cases deterrents do not work. In some cases, farmers are even experiencing intimidation, violence and threats from criminal gangs.
With 95 per cent of fly-tipping fines lower than the cost of hiring a skip, he said tougher penalties are required to tackle the problem. CLA added that a change in the law is needed to ensure landowners are no longer liable for waste that is dumped on their land. This should be coupled with financial and logistical help for victims in cleaning up the waste material.
CLA’s director general Sarah Hendry added that fly-tipping comes with a “huge emotional and financial cost”.
“Our members are all too tired of not only cleaning up other people’s rubbish but paying for the privilege of doing so. It costs on average £1,000 to clean up each incident. With many rural businesses suffering multiple incidents, it can quickly affect the bottom line dramatically.”
The introduction of fees at many rubbish tips and recycling centres has seen a rise in organised criminal fly-tipping.
NFU welcomed news from the Environment Agency that it will set up a Joint Unit on Waste Crime next month, which involves the police and HMRC.
Farmers are advised to report rural crimes to the police or give information anonymously to the Rural Crime Hotline (0800 783 0137), run by Crimestoppers in partnership with the NFU. Or, you can report crimes online at www.ruralcrimehotline.co.uk