FLY-TIPPING cost the North East almost £3m last year, as the number of incidents of rubbish dumped on public land rose for the second year running.
More than 53,000 incidents were recorded in Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and County Durham, but only 73 prosecutions were brought by the authorities, leading to fines totalling less than £15,000.
By contrast, councils in the region spent more than £2.2m cleaning up incidents of fly-tipping, and nearly £600,000 investigating them.
Items dumped include electrical goods, building waste and household rubbish, but also animal carcasses, asbestos and clinical waste.
For the second year running, the North East saw a rise in the number of fly-tipping cases at the same time that cases nationally were reducing.
And there was a warning that the figures released by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) were only the tip of the iceberg as they do not take into account rising cases of rubbish dumped on private farmland in the region’s countryside.
Dr Nicola Dunn, environment adviser for the National Farmers’ Union, said: “It appears to us that there could be a knock-on effect due to increased action on public land, appearing as an increase in incidents on private land. This is completely counter-productive – we want to see a solution for fly-tipping on all land, both public and private.
“It is extremely disappointing that fly-tipping on private land remains a significant problem for farmers. Until Government acknowledges that action is needed to deal with the problem on all land, we don’t believe the problem will be effectively resolved.
“Farmers are frustrated when they, the victims of a crime, are left to clear up dumped waste and pay the local authority to dispose of it. That’s just not right.”
Dorothy Fairburn, director of the Country Land and Business Association in the North, said: “Waste dumped illegally can contaminate land and rivers and threaten livestock and wildlife. If caught, fly-tippers could receive a custodial sentence and be fined up to £50,000. In reality, it is the private landowner who is left to settle a large clean-up bill and face prosecution.”
Research by the National Farmers’ Union suggests that, while incidents of rubbish dumped on public land fell nationally during the last year by 9%, they rose on private land by 64% over the same period.
Last year, the Government’s Farming Regulation Task Force recommended that farmers should be able to dispose of fly-tipped waste free of charge at local authority sites.
But Defra’s recommendations on fly-tipping fell short of that proposal and left the decision on how local authorities should tackle the problem up to them.
Information released by Defra shows that rubbish was dumped on footpaths, industrial estates and in rivers in the region, with the items most commonly dumped being white goods, tyres and construction waste.
But there were also 104 incidents where asbestos was dumped in the region, and 86 involving animal carcases.
In all there were 53,780 incidents of fly-tipping in the region, with Newcastle seeing the most at 19,278, followed by Sunderland at 15,772.
Of those incidents, only 73 ended up with court prosecutions, with another 497 being dealt with by fixed penalties.
Sandy Irvine, chair of Newcastle Green Party, said councils need to invest more cash in making recycling easier if they are going to tackle the problem.
He said: “The issue is to make recycling as easy and convenient as possible.
“For example, I went to recycle my bottles yesterday and all the skips were chock full. If these facilities are not close at hand, there will always be a layer of people who will dump their waste.
“It may cost more in the short term, but everyone will be winners in the end.”
Henri Murison, the city council’s cabinet member for quality of life said the area’s figures were so high because they are more honest in their classification of fly-tipping. He said: “As a council, we define fly-tipping as rubbish that cannot be cleared in one go by hand. Other councils, for example, don’t even class five bin bags full of dumped waste as fly-tipping.”
He vowed that the council was going to get tougher on those who dump their waste, with more cash earmarked for enforcement and would be seeking to “change behaviour”. This year has seen fines rise from £50 to £75 and operations put in place to target hotspot areas.
However, Mr Murison expressed concern about the effects of Government cuts to the council’s budget, and how bin collections are set to go bi-weekly this year. He said: “We bid for money to keep weekly bin collections from the Government but we did not get a single penny.
“There is a very extensive network of recycling sites in Newcastle, but this service is being put at risk.”
Tom Brennan, who is stepping down as GMB regional secretary, said: “Obviously, the taxpayer has to pick up the bill up for this, and it has an impact on the local authorities that are delivering services.
“The less that is spent on cleaning up after people, the better the situation for all concerned. The police should be stricter in terms of prosecuting people for fly-tipping because we cannot condone it.”
The police should be stricter in terms of prosecuting people for fly-tipping