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.