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Fly Tipping - who pays and what can be done?

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Fly tipping is a real problem for land owners and needs to be taken very seriously in terms of the impact that it has in rural areas.  Not only is it a source of pollution, a potential danger to public health and a hazard to wildlife but it also undermines legitimate waste businesses.

During 2017/2018 approximately 464,000 incidents of fly tipping were reported on private land although it is likely that a great many incidents go unreported. Unfortunately, it is the land owner who is responsible for the costs of responsibly removing and disposing of waste which has been fly tipped on their land.  Clean up costs can be substantial, for example, in the case of hazardous waste.  This of course seems extremely unfair on the innocent land owner, however DEFRA’s reasoning for exempting local authorities from the clearance costs in connection with private land is that fly tippers would not pay legitimate disposal costs if they knew that local tax payers would pick up the tab.  However, this does seem to be slightly unusual logic as it is very difficult to imagine that the fly tippers themselves give a great deal of consideration to who pays the bill, provided it isn’t them.

So, what can we do?  The National Fly Tipping Prevention Group suggests various practical improvements which can help to deter fly tippers such as installing gates and barriers (ensuring, of course, that no public or private rights of way are blocked as a result), closing and locking gates where possible when they are not in use and installing CCTV in vulnerable areas.  It is also very important to ensure that your property insurance includes cover for fly tipping related incidents to help mitigate the costs if you find yourself a victim of illegal waste disposal on your land.

In circumstances where it is possible to identify the individual or individuals who have abandoned the waste then there is the potential for the landowner to recover the costs of removal and disposal.  The good news is that current Government statistics (2017/2018) show that conviction rates for fly tipping prosecutions are relatively high.

Those responsible for the offence of illegally disposing of controlled waste may face an unlimited fine and/or up to 6 months in prison, if convicted in the Magistrates Court; and an unlimited fine and/or up to 5 years in prison if convicted in the Crown Court.  In addition, the Court has the power to require the offender to pay the costs associated with the enforcement and investigation of the case, confiscation of vehicles used in the offence and the Court can also order the offender to pay for the clean up costs.

Whilst many of us feel frustrated at the relatively modest fixed penalty notices, which can be issued, it is worth noting that the Government has stated the fixed penalty notices will only be appropriate for small scale offences.  There are in fact a range of other possible penalties which the Courts can impose in addition to those mentioned above such as driving bans, electronic tagging and community service.

So what steps can be taken to try and prevent or put off these Fly Tippers other than the suggestions above?   Neighbourhood watch schemes can be a useful method of sharing information and keep a close eye on unusual vehicles in rural areas and record number plate details, where possible, to report to the Police or Local Authorities as appropriate.

Contact a member of our Agricultural Law team for advice on what can be done about fly-tipping.