Fly-tipped waste in a field© Woodland Trust

The nationwide epidemic of fly-tipping on UK farms and the need for tougher penalties to crack down on the culprits has come under the spotlight in parliament.

MPs highlighted the “excellent” work Farmers Weekly’s Stop the Blot campaign, in association with the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), has done to raise the profile of this growing issue.

But they questioned whether the Environment Agency, Defra and the authorities were doing enough to tackle fly-tipping on farms.

See also: Revealed – the burden of fly-tipping on farms

During a Defra Q&A session held in parliament on Thursday (26 October), David Davies, Conservative MP for Monmouth, asked what steps the Environment Agency (EA) was taking to prevent fly-tipping on private land.

Environment minister Thérèse Coffey replied the government viewed fly-tipping on farms as a “serious antisocial crime that damages the environment, human health and farm businesses, so tackling it is a priority”.

So far, ministers had strengthened the ability of the EA and local authorities to seize the vehicles of suspected fly-tippers and also given local authorities the power to issue fixed penalty notices.

The government is also working with the NFU on measures to increase reporting and to better target enforcement, Dr Coffey said. As fly-tipping is a devolved issue, government will also be working with Natural Resources Wales, she added.

Farmers Weekly campaign

Mr Davies asked the minister if she was “aware of the excellent campaign by Farmers Weekly to bring in much tougher penalties across the UK for the criminal gangs responsible for fly-tipping on farms in Britain?”

Dr Coffey replied: “[Mr Davies] is absolutely right to stress the importance of tackling such criminality, so we are working closely with the Environment Agency to investigate further ways of doing that.

“We will continue not only to work with the police, but to create new powers so that we can get rid of criminals from the waste industry entirely.”

Fines ‘not high enough’

Neil Parish, Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, said fines were not high enough to deter people from fly-tipping on farms. “Unless we get some teeth and impose really heavy fines, we will not stop these people, who leave farmers with the huge problem of getting rid of the waste.”

Dr Coffey replied that government needed to do more work with farmers at a local level to ensure their farms have better barriers against such access.

Police and the authorities must work with farmers to increase intelligence and target persistent dumpers and “use the full force of the law to deter such behaviour”.

Dame Caroline Spelman, Conservative MP for Meriden in the West Midlands, said magistrates must be better briefed so that fines for fly-tipping on farms are “proportionate to the crime”.

The former Defra secretary also called for fixed penalty notices to be extended to cover waste that can be traced back to homeowners.

Dr Coffey said she would take these ideas away and speak to a justice minister about possible changes to sentencing guidelines.


Stop the Blot

Fly-tippers are ruining our countryside and clean-up costs are crippling farm businesses. That’s why we have launched our Stop the Blot campaign to help raise awareness of the damage caused by fly-tipping and tackle the growing epidemic on farms.