Government figures showing more than a million fly-tipping incidents last year are just the tip of the iceberg, said countryside leaders - as they don't include rubbish dumped on private land.

Councils across England reportedly dealt with 1.08m cases of illegal fly-tipping in 2022-23, down 1pc from the previous year.

But in the East of England, the figure rose by 4pc to 78,684 cases, of which around 50pc were on council land, 32pc on roads and pavements, and 10pc on footpaths and bridleways - but less than 1pc were classed as "agricultural incidents".

Countryside business leaders said this masked the true scale of the problem, as the figures did not include private landowners who often face the cost of clearing up rubbish ranging from household goods to industrial waste.

Charles Hesketh, East of England regional policy manager for the National Farmers' Union (NFU), said: “Fly-tipping has been an issue for farmers and landowners in East Anglia for many years and, unfortunately, we have not seen a lot of progress in tackling it.

"Neither the police, councils or the Environment Agency have taken full ownership of the issue, so the problem often ends up sitting with the farmer or landowner.

"Not only are they victims of the crime but are the ones who often end up having to take responsibility and incur the costs of clearing up the rubbish which is illegally dumped on their land. This is completely unfair.  

"The costs of removing and disposing of some of this waste can run into tens of thousands of pounds.

“The government needs to work with councils, the Environment Agency and police to find a solution to this."

Mark Riches, acting regional director for the Country Land and Business Association (CLA East), added: "The reality is that incidents of fly-tipping remain worryingly high and there is simply not enough of a deterrent to stop people committing the crime.

“The criminals carrying out these acts do not fear prosecution as far too many of them get away unpunished. We need consistently high fines being handed out on a regular basis if we are ever to see a meaningful drop in the number of incidents.

“Time will tell if government efforts to reduce fly-tipping – such as removing charges for disposal of DIY waste at recycling centres – will have any impact. But the situation currently remains pretty grim."