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Farmers 'suffer in silence' as figures mask true cost of fly-tipping

PUBLISHED: 15:31 26 November 2019 | UPDATED: 15:31 26 November 2019

Defra's fly-tipping figures mask the hidden cost of the crime to private landowners and farmers, said rural insurers. Picture: Daniel Hickey

Defra's fly-tipping figures mask the hidden cost of the crime to private landowners and farmers, said rural insurers. Picture: Daniel Hickey

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Farmers who fall victim to fly-tipping are "suffering in silence" while left to bear the hidden financial and emotional cost of the crime, said rural insurers.

The latest Defra figures show 67,792 incidents of illegally-dumped rubbish were reported to East of England councils in the last 12 months - but only 408 of them were on agricultural land.

Viv Vivers, of Farmers and Mercantile Insurance Brokers (FMIB), said the figures do not reflect the full scale of the problem for East Anglia's farmers, as most cases on private land go unreported - leaving victims to foot clean-up bills averaging £1,000 a time.

"Flytipping is a scourge on the farming community and their plight is not reflected in these figures," she said.

"Councils spend millions every year on clean-up costs but private land-owners, such as farmers, are suffering in silence with little or no assistance or recourse.

"The burden of dumped rubbish falling squarely with farmers as they are liable for clearing it up at their own expense, or face prosecution. Moving the mess on to public land will not solve the issue but exacerbate it, which farmers need to be mindful of.

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"In one incident we encountered, a farmer was unwittingly branded a fly-tipper after falling victim to the crime.

"After finding tyres dumped over his hedge, he moved them on the other side of the hedgerow and informed the authorities. Although the waste was collected, he was slapped with a prosecution order for fly-tipping.

"Farmers are already faced with a myriad of difficulties, from economic uncertainty to market volatility, and having to fork out dealing with someone else's mess just compounds these stresses."

READ MORE: Figures reveal scale of fly-tipping in Norfolk - and where it happens most

Farmers were warmed not to approach anyone in the act of fly-tipping, but were offered advice to deter would-be criminals from targeting their land, including ensuring fields are gated, locked and inaccessible from the road, and installing exterior lighting to improve visibility.

Any dumped waste should be secured so animals and the public are not exposed to potentially-dangerous material like asbestos and chemicals, and as much detail as possible should be recorded, including photos, to report the incident to the local council.

Landowners also need to ensure any rubbish dumped on their land is disposed of properly by registered waste companies.

Defra's figures, released earlier this month, revealed the shocking scale of fly-tipping across Norfolk, with more than 11,000 instances rubbish being illegally dumped last year.

In Norwich, fly-tipping increased to its highest level in seven years, and reports of the crime also went up in Breckland, Broadland, North Norfolk and South Norfolk, but fell in West Norfolk. Meanwhile Great Yarmouth has changed how it records fly-tipping.

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