Anne Marie Morris MP: Penalties and enforcement process must be overhauled to reduce fly-tipping
Newton Abbott MP Anne Marie Morris writes ahead of her Adjournment debate on 'fly tipping in rural areas' with over one million incidents in 2016/17 costing local authorities an estimated £58 million to clear.
Fly-tipping is becoming an ever growing problem in rural areas. In 2016/17 local authorities dealt with over one million fly-tipping incidents with an estimated cost of clearance to local authorities in England of £58 million.
A survey by the CLA and Farmers Weekly found that almost two thirds of farmers and landowners are victims of fly-tipping. The number of incidents of fly-tipping has increased year-on-year since 2013 and despite efforts from local authorities and central government it is a problem that is clearly getting worse rather than better. Teignbridge district in my own constituency has experienced a 60% increase in fly-tipping incidents over the past 5 years. Why? It’s easy to do with few penalties and much cheaper than going to the tip!
There are many hidden places to abandon rubbish in rural areas and it is easy to hide the identity of vehicles and their owners. The risk of getting caught is low as local authorities struggle to prosecute an overwhelming majority of incidents. 0.1% of incidents for fly-tipping in Devon resulted in a prosecution action. In 2016/17, 474,000 enforcement actions were carried out by local authorities. The National Farmers Union (NFU) shares my concern for the number of prosecutions and the level of fines being handed out by Magistrates for these offences. Currently the maximum sentence for fly-tipping in the Magistrates’ court is an unlimited fine and/or 12 months in prison, but 95% of sentences issues are fines of less than £1,000. The most common penalty being a fine of £400.
Household waste is consistently the most common type of waste dumped, accounting for two thirds of total incidents in 2016/17. Residents are increasingly not prepared to pay for a service they believe should be provided by the local authority free of charge. Additionally, householders are being turned away from tips unless they can prove they are local residents, often using a permit scheme. This has led to a problem of people no longer being allowed to access what used to be their local tip as they live outside of local authority lines. Inconvenient opening hours is a further frustration for traders and households as tips often do not run hours that allow for the disposal of waste at the start or the end of a working day.
Better co-ordination is needed between councils over residents’ use of their nearest recycling and waste centre. A more customer-focused opening schedule is needed too from some council-run tips such as extending the opening times of tip sites to accommodate commercial schedules for use early in the morning or at the end of a working day. And given the clean-up costs outweigh the fine income, waste disposal should be free. There is clear evidence from the published figures that fly tipping goes up when charges are introduced. The potential adverse environmental consequences of fridges and other white goods being dumped are significant, never mind the impact on tourism resulting from such unsightly rubbish. And of course the penalties and enforcement processes need thoroughly overhauling. The polluter pays has to mean something!
Anne Marie Morris is the Independent MP for Newton Abbot