Fly-tipping cases could soar with recycling site cuts, CLA warns

Landowners fear proposals to close and cut the opening hours of recycling centres in Buckinghamshire may lead to an increase in fly-tipping on farms in the Thames Valley.

Buckinghamshire County Council has launched a public consultation, which includes the potential to permanently close at least one of its 10 sites in the county, with the preferred option at Bledlow, in a bid to cut costs.

The council is also considering cutting the opening hours at other centres and proposing new charges for handling certain items.

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

More than 650 fly-tippers have been prosecuted in Buckinghamshire in the last 15 years – and the council has one of the highest prosecution rates for waste crime in England.

But the CLA believes much of the good work could be undone if the authority gives the green light to reduce its recycling centre services.

CLA regional director Robin Edwards said: “More than 11,000 fly-tipping cases – six a day, on average – have blighted the countryside in the last five years alone, costing taxpayers £500,000 a year in clean-up costs, and it would be a huge shame if these numbers were to grow even bigger as a result of cuts to recycling centre services.

“Closing or partially closing recycling centres will not help. Each incident of fly-tipping on private land costs the owner £844 on average to clean up. But why should innocent landowners bear the burden of this disgraceful crime?”

On the contrary, Walsall Council is considering extending its opening hours at its tips and introducing a free skip collection service every Saturday for bulky household items, in a bid to tackle fly-tipping, which cost its taxpayers in excess of £426,000 last year.

Defra view

In April, Defra environment minister Dr Thérèse Coffey said that any evidence linking councils charging to receive certain types of waste with an increase in fly-tipping was “inconclusive”.

Last year, a Farmers Weekly campaign to raise awareness of fly-tipping in the countryside, in association with the CLA, urged the government to change current legislation, which places the responsibility of clearing fly-tipped waste on farmland on private landowners.

But Dr Coffey said allowing fly-tipped waste dumped on private land to be cleared without charge at household waste recycling centres would “not provide the right incentive to deter fly-tipping” or encourage people to “secure their land more”.

Council aids prosecutions for fly-tipping on private land

  • Dumping of waste on private land in Buckinghamshire must still be cleaned up by the landowner, but council officers do investigate private land fly-tip cases
  • Where the evidence allows prosecution, Buckinghamshire County Council (representing the Waste Partnership), seeks clean-up compensation on behalf of the landowner at court
  • More than 10% of cases – 71 out of 672 between 2004 and 2018 – have been where the waste was fly-tipped on privately owned land
  • There is no charge to the landowner for investigation work or for legal fees in these cases; the costs are recovered at court from the defendant
  • Investigators cherry-pick reports, however, and only pursue cases where there is a strong likelihood of prosecution
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