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Mark Woodman, Solicitor at DAS Law, looks at the laws around this modern day scourge.
Fly-tipping is the only crime where the victims (private landowners) have a legal responsibility to dispose of the waste. Under current legislation, landowners can be prosecuted if they fail to remove fly-tipped waste quickly enough.
Local authorities are responsible for investigating and clearing up smaller scale fly-tipping on public land and may investigate incidents on private land. However, landowners are still responsible for clearing fly-tipped waste on private land.
In certain circumstances, local authorities and the Environment Agency/Natural Resource Wales have powers to require occupiers and landowners to remove waste from their land. If landowners fail to comply, the local authority and the Environment Agency/Natural Resource Wales have powers to enter the land and clear it, and may seek reimbursement for costs related to this.
A number of other powers exist to require the removal of illegally deposited waste, including under:
Defra says that tackling fly-tipping “remains a priority”. It has strengthened local authorities’ enforcement powers through fixed-penalty notices and by making it easier for vehicles suspected of being used for fly-tipping to be stopped, searched and seized.
Householders whose waste ends up being fly-tipped face fines of up to £400. The government introduced new sentencing guidelines in 2014, with a maximum £50,000 fine or 12 months in prison for offenders, if dealt with by a Magistrates’ court. If a case is referred to a Crown court, the maximum penalty is imprisonment for up to five years, or a potentially unlimited fine.
Fly-tipping is an illegal waste crime. If you see a fly-tipping incident in progress, call 999 immediately. Do not approach the offenders, but note down how many people are involved, their descriptions and information about any vehicles being used, including the makes, colours, and registration numbers. If it is safe, take photographs.
Farmers can also use the NFU’s Rural Crime Reporting Line, in partnership with Crimestoppers, to provide information about fly-tipping by calling 0800 783 0137 or visiting the dedicated website https://forms.theiline.co.uk/ruralcrimereportingline.
The National Fly-Tipping Prevention Group (NFTPG) recommends the following steps if you find waste dumped on your land:
You should also contact your local authority and the Environment Agency (EA) – call 0800 80 70 60 – to see if they can offer any help and investigate an incident. You must contact the EA under certain circumstances: if the illegally dumped waste is more than 20 tonnes (about 20cu m); more than 5cu m of fibrous asbestos; more than 75 litres of potentially hazardous waste in drums or containers; or possibly linked to criminal business activity or rural crime.
There are a number of measures farmers and landowners can take to prevent fly-tipping on their land, although it must be acknowledged that stopping a determined waste criminal is very difficult. The National Fly-tipping Prevention Group gives the following tips: