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Fly-tipping: how rife is it and what can you do to prevent it?

All across the UK, incidents of fly-tipping are frequently seen. What’s more, many lawbreakers use farm land as the site to dump their waste illegally as opposed to going through the authorised channels. Here, farm estate insurance specialists Lycetts set out what can be done by those who have found that their property has become a fly-tipping site:

Understanding the issue of fly-tipping across the UK

Fly-tipping is where rubbish or large items are illegally dumped onto land that does not have a license to receive them. There are many items which can be defined under the banner of fly-tipping, including a bin bag filled with rubbish, tyres, waste which has come from construction activities, mattresses, beds and garden waste.

ITV News sent out a freedom of information request to find out just how serious an issue fly-tipping has become throughout Britain. The results were reported on by The Daily Telegraph and led to Keep Britain Tidy’s chief executive Allison Ogden-Newton going as far as to say that the crime has reached “crisis levels” throughout the country.

This statement was made after The Daily Telegraph recorded that a selection of council regions has seen the number of fly-tipping incidents jump by more than a fifth year-on-year. For example, almost 40,000 reported incidents were recorded in the North London district of Haringey between November 2015 and December 2016, with more than 30,000 incidents also reported in Manchester over the same period.

The problem may be improving in some areas of the UK, but these parts are still seeing fly-tipping cause issues. In Birmingham, for instance, the number of fly-tipping cases are down by 13 per cent between November 2015 and December 2016. However, the figure during this period was still recorded at 21,000 offences.

“Fly-tipping is an epidemic, it’s reached crisis levels and something needs to be done about it. Local authorities are overwhelmed with instances of criminal fly-tipping and we need to address this urgently,” points out Ms Ogden-Newton.

James Cuthbertson, an account executive at Lycetts, was also keen to point out that Scotland is being hit particularly hard by fly-tipping problems. Near to 61,000 fly-tipping incidents are recorded in this country every single year, Mr Cuthbertson has found.

“The culprits tend to think of this practice as a victimless crime; but estimates put the cost to Scottish tax payers at £8.9 million a year to clear and dispose of tipped rubbish from council land. Farmers and other countryside custodians must meet the cost of clearing rubbish from private land themselves, at an average of £1,000 a time,” Mr Cuthbertson underlined.

What the law is doing about fly-tipping

There are steps being put in place to try and stop people from carrying out fly-tipping offences. According to figures obtained from the BBC, a total of 1,602 prosecutions for fly-tipping were carried out across England between 2016 and 2017. What’s more, 98 per cent of prosecutions made resulted in a conviction. During the same time period, councils across England served 56,000 fixed penalty notices in regards to cases of fly-tipping.

What happens if you’re caught fly-tipping? As the practice is deemed a serious criminal offence, those who are caught can face a maximum penalty of an unlimited fine and up to five years imprisonment.

Fly-tipping offences also take into account those who either permit for fly-tipping to occur on their own land or any land that they are renting.

Despite these efforts though, Mr Cuthbertson points out: “Fines of up to £40,000 can be imposed but, given budgetary constraints, the pursuit of fly tippers is well down the list of priorities of councils and the police. Furthermore, it is hard to gather evidence to bring a successful prosecution.”

Steps to take when a victim of fly-tipping

It is important to note that it is your responsibility for clearing all rubbish on your private property, even when you’re unfortunately a victim of fly-tipping.

The first course of action to take when spotting fly-tipped waste is to be cautious — the contents could be hazardous, after all. Therefore, bags and drums should not be opened and piles of soil should be a cause for alarm bells as the material could be contaminated or hiding dangerous material.

What you should do is record all details about the waste from the moment you discover it. This includes where you located the waste, as well as taking photographs if possible. After all details have been recorded, report the case of fly-tipping to your local authority:

  • Those in England and Wales should head to this GOV.UK page and report fly-tipping by first entering the postcode where the waste has been discovered.
  • Those in Scotland should report fly-tipping waste by either filling in a simple online form on DumbDumpers.org or contacting Stopline directly by calling 0845 2 30 40 90.
  • Those in Northern Ireland should head to gov.uk and find details for their local council, who will be able to advise on the waste disposal sites and recycling centres based nearby for the safe and legal recycling or disposal of unwanted items.

Secure the waste as much as possible once you’ve reported the fly-tipping incident, so that it cannot by interfered with or added to further.

Ready to remove the waste? If you’re able to move the contents yourself, first and foremost, do not take the waste to a licensed site yourself unless you’re registered as a waste carrier. If hazardous waste has been identified, it should only be carried and then disposed of by someone who is licensed to deal with hazardous waste. If you get someone else to remove the waste though, make sure to get appropriate documentation — it should include details about the waste and those who are taking it away — and keep all information about clearance and disposal costs safe, as these can be recovered in the event a successful prosecution is made against the crime committed.

Mr Cuthbertson also advises: “In the event you wake one morning to find the midnight cowboys have paid you a visit, if the problem is severe, it is worth consulting with your insurance broker. Most farm combined policies will cover the cost of removal and disposal, less an excess. In the event of a major fly tipping incident, you could be very glad the cover is in place.”

Don’t risk putting yourself in danger should you spot someone fly-tipping either. As the practice is illegal, people are unlikely to take kindly to their crime being observed. Do not confront the guilty parties, but instead immediately call 999 and then make a note the number of people involved, descriptions of their appearances, details about the waste being fly-tipped and information about any vehicles used — this includes the makes of the vehicles, their colours and their registration numbers if you can make it out.

Preventing your land from becoming a common site for fly-tipping

If you’re worried about your land being an appealing site to those carrying out a fly-tipping crime, there are steps which can be taken to reduce the risk. Installing gates that are always closed and locked when not in use will help to restrict access to your property and its land, as will strategically placing physical barriers around the perimeter so that vehicles are unable to get through — think earth bunds, boulders and tree trunks placed closely to each other around your land.

Also take note that if criminals are worried that they will likely get caught fly-tipping when doing so on your land, they will be less likely to carry out the illegal activity. Therefore, work on improving visibility all around your property and its land, make sure high-quality exterior lighting is installed and in working condition, and set up CCTV cameras and appropriate signs alerting people of the technology’s presence.

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