FARMERS around the UK are under siege from fly-tippers.
But campaigners and councils across the country are stepping up the fight to outlaw the waste criminals.
The issue gained national exposure after a dramatic increase in fly-tipping in rural areas reported after the Covid-19 lockdown.
Targets included Lincolnshire farmer Andrew Ward, who hit the national news after finding 40 tons of rubbish had been dumped on his property, costing thousands of pounds to move.
Some areas of the country saw a 300% increase in dumping as householders saw the lockdown period as an ideal time for a spring clean but found local tips closed or busy.
Rural and environmental organisations stress that fly-tipping has a significant impact on rural areas and pose dangers to wildlife.
Another victim was beef and arable farmer Richard Heady, who runs WF Heady and Sons near Milton Keynes in partnership with his father and uncle, and discovered a lorryload of household waste strewn across part of an emerging crop of spring oats.
Although many local authorities had to shut waste recycling centres at the height of the crisis, most have now reopened and initial long queues have reduced. But farmers’ fields, laybys and lanes have become hot spots for DIY remnants, unwanted furniture and garden waste.
One group of concerned organisations in Scotland said: “At a time when farmers are working around the clock to provide food for the nation and trying to keep their businesses running despite being short-staffed, it is heartbreaking to see their land being used as a giant tip.
“Fly-tipping is illegal, ugly and dangerous. It can be harmful to lambs, calves and other animals and wildlife too. But for farmers and other landowners, it is also costly to clean up.”
The National Farmers’ Union says two-thirds of farmers and land owners have been affected.
Andrew Ward told Sky News: “It really makes my blood boil to think that people will probably get away with this. The fact that they can do this to a lovely area, where we have families walking, we have children walking down here, we have wildlife.
“It’s on an absolutely huge scale; this is not your one man and a van who turns up at a house, this is probably three lorry loads of commercial industrial waste.”
Mr Ward’s partner, Rhonda Thompson, an NFU adviser in the county, said: “Fly-tipping needs to be regarded as a much more serious crime and I think the penalties have to be fairly hefty. The fines that are currently around just aren’t enough to deter people from doing this.”
The Department for Food and Rural Affairs said that fly-tipping can lead to unlimited fines and a prison sentence of up to five years. But campaigners maintain prosecutions are rare in some areas and have called for heavier punishments for less serious littering offences.
Buckinghamshire County Council enforcement officer David Rounding confirmed fly-tipping in the county increased during lockdown, particularly smaller dumping incidents which might involve householders dumping their own waste.
But he added: “We have also seen even higher rates than previously of cross-border offending and we have been working in partnership with neighbour authorities where appropriate to address and seek to reduce this. It is still the case that most of the waste dumped in Buckinghamshire was transported into Bucks from outside.”
He said surveillance work and eyewitness reports had helped in an ongoing programme of detection and enforcement through the lockdown period. Offences in the county are regularly prosecuted and in future warnings will be replaced by £400 fixed penalty notices.
He said: “The council has recently adopted powers to serve fixed penalties of £400 (the maximum rate allowed by Government) against people fly-tipping waste and also against people transferring their waste to unauthorised waste carriers. These powers will be used in addition to the existing use of court prosecution and will replace zero penalty simple cautions in the enforcement mix at the lower end of the scale. This means that people who were previously cautioned will now be fined.”
Householders are warned that when using waste carriers they make payment only online or by other traceable means so that they are able to provide the waste carrier’s details should their waste be found later to have been fly-tipped.
“Enforcement work by definition always follows offences and we will see many fixed penalties imposed and court cases which follow later through the usual process,” said Mr Rounding.