by David Bean

A briefing note prepared in advance of the Westminster Hall debate on tackling fly-tipping and illegal dumping, introduced by Saqib Bhatti MP.

  • The UK has a fly-tipping and litter problem. Last year there were 1.13 million incidents of fly-tipping in England, the equivalent of nearly 129 every hour. This represents a 16% increase from the previous year.
  • Both the problem and the costs to local authorities are growing. In 2020/21, 39,000 or 4% of total incidents were of ‘tipper lorry load’ size or larger, which is an increase of 16% from 33,000 in 2019/20. The Government only publishes costs relating to these large fly-tipping incidents, but the cost of clearance to local authorities in England in 2020/21 was £11.6 million, compared with £10.9 million in 2019/20. Clearance costs to public and private landowners from other incidents, which represent the vast majority, will inevitably be higher by orders of magnitude.
  • Enforcement, by contrast, seems to be getting worse. The issuance of both fixed-penalty notices and fines imposed by courts fell in 2020/21 compared with the previous year, by 24% and 51% respectively in spite of the rise in incidence. If we are to send a clear message that this crime is unacceptable and make it cease to be worthwhile, it is essential that these trends be reversed.
  • The Countryside Alliance has long campaigned on the problem of fly-tipping in the countryside. Fly-tipping is not a victimless crime and government figures on fly-tipping only tell part of the story as official figures on the number of incidents on private land and the associated clear up costs are patchy.  Evidence suggests that private landowners spend upwards of £47 million a year clearing up fly-tipped waste, but this figure is widely accepted to be on the low side.
  • Private landowners are liable for any waste dumped on their land and are responsible for clearing it away and paying for the cost of disposal. If they do not act or inform the local authorities about the fly-tipped waste, they risk prosecution for illegal storage of waste in a “double jeopardy” situation which is simply not fair.
  • Countryside Alliance members, including farmers and rural businesses, frequently face having to clear up fly-tipped waste from their land and are having to resort to drastic measures to deter the crime such, as blockading gates and field entrances with machinery and other items. Often it is more expensive for the victim to remove the fly-tipped waste from private land than to pay the cost of the fixed penalty notice.
  • Local authorities should fulfil their legal obligation to clamp down on fly-tipping and make it easier for people to dispose of their waste legally. While preventative measures play a part in reducing fly-tipping it is clear that more needs to be done to bring those who perpetrate it to justice. Many local authorities find it easier to dispose of the waste rather than find the culprit, but this sends out the wrong message to fly-tippers.
  • Crime is a key issue for rural communities yet those communities feel that policing is often focussed on their urban neighbours. Residents and businesses in the countryside pay as much, and often more, per head of population for policing and deserve equal treatment to their urban counterparts. Rural crime, including fly-tipping, must be taken seriously by the police and local authorisation.
  • The Countryside Alliance’s last Rural Crime Survey, published in November, saw fly-tipping rise to become respondents’ top priority for the police to tackle. It found that 43% of respondents had suffered from fly-tipping, an increase of 4% over the previous year’s result. This comes against a backdrop of 95% of those surveyed thinking rural crime was a problem in their community and 70% thinking crime had increased in the past 12 months.

To read the briefing in full, please click here.

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