Real cost of fly-tipping shame

Every hour, another illegal incident of fly-tipping takes place in Norfolk.That's the depressing message from a senior Environment Agency official.In the past 11 months a total of 10,258 cases have been reported to councils and authorities, according to Rory Sanderson, the Norwich-based environment manager responsible for north Norfolk.

Every hour, another illegal incident of fly-tipping takes place in Norfolk.

That's the depressing message from a senior Environment Agency official.

In the past 11 months a total of 10,258 cases have been reported to councils and authorities, according to Rory Sanderson, the Norwich-based environment manager responsible for north Norfolk.

Norfolk farmers' leader Bob Young believes that polluting the countryside by fly-tipping must be regarded as anti-social.

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The clean-up bill for fly-tipping is costing private landowners a staggering £50m a year - and the problem is getting worse, warns the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

"It is more than one per hour, every hour of the week," said Mr Sanderson, joint chairman of the Norfolk Waste Enforcement Group.

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"It is quite an eye-opener. It is everything from a black bag, possibly left out on the wrong day, to asbestos or hazardous chemicals."

Piers Pratt, chairman of the Norfolk CLA branch, said fly-tipping was a regular problem on his family's estate at Ryston, near Downham Market.

And Mr Young, chairman of

Norfolk National Farmers' Union, complained: "Even yesterday, I was picking rubbish out of my fields.

"It is incredibly anti-social, there is no doubt. People have got to become more responsible."

Staff at the Environment Agency, which works closely with the seven district councils and the county council to try to combat the problem, are keen to build up the full picture from farmers and landowners.

"We're asking them to report incidents to us, but I can understand why farmers may be reluctant because the duty is probably still on them to clear it up," said Mr Sanderson.

Of the county total of fly-tipping cases, just 67 have been reported

on agricultural land since March last year.

"I would bet a lot of money that

there are an awful lot of incidents which are just not reported because farmers will deal with it themselves," he said.

Mark Woods, environmental protection team leader at North Norfolk council, said all seven district and borough councils had forged a joint approach to tackling fly-tipping and other waste issues.

He added: "It has risen fast up the political agenda, and we are taking these very seriously. We will prosecute and will take legal action when we get the evidence.

"We do ask people if they see suspicious activity to make a note of registration numbers of vehicles, time, place and other details. If we are told, we will do our very best to investigate."

"We need to change the attitude towards waste disposal, and I think that the message is starting to get through."

Mr Sanderson, who is joint chairman of the enforcement group with John Hemsworth, of Yarmouth Borough Council, said local and county authorities, the police and fire service were all working together.

Norfolk farmer James Paterson has played a key role in combating the fly-tipping menace in recent years.

Mr Paterson, of Manor Farm, Dilham, near North Walsham, was regional chairman of the NFU's key environmental committee for about 10 years and said the problem had come to a head. It had cost him more than £500 to clear up illegally-dumped asbestos from his farm in the past.

"The cultural attitude has got to change. It has to become regarded as as extremely anti-social in the same way that drink-driving and smoking in public are now viewed," he added.

He welcomed the decision to increase the maximum fine from £20,000.

"I think that a £50,000 fine will work because, when I had a dairy herd, the thing that stopped me polluting the waterways was the prospect of a massive fine. It concentrated the mind. That's how fly-tipping should be."

And Gwen Davies, a Newmarket-based regional NFU official, said: "We need to make people aware of their responsibilities. I think it requires quite a high-profile campaign like, perhaps, the Environment Agency's flooding campaign. There is a duty of care on householders to make proper provision for the disposal of waste. It applies to everybody."

Mr Sanderson pointed out that householders were now legally liable for their waste.

He said: "I still think it is very little known by most people that they could be committing an offence and could end up in the dock themselves

"That is the stick, but the carrot is is that everybody in Norfolk wants to live in a nice, clean environment.

Mr Sanderson urged householders to make a few simple checks, including:

Who is operating that skip? Ask if they are a registered waste carrier.

Ask for a "duty of care transfer note", which is a description of the waste.

Mr Paterson said it all came back to a cultural change of attitude.

"If you have a set of tyres changed, there is a cost of about £3 for proper environmental disposal.

"Well, it is so insignificant. It is getting the public woken up to the fact so that the illegal traders who are causing the problem actually get caught," he said.

Mr Young, who farms at Hockwold, near Brandon, said: "It is certainly seems to be getting more and more of a problem."

But he added: "My experience of West Norfolk Council when I've had specific big items of fly-tipping has been excellent."

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