By Kelly Wickham
Fly-tipping has increased in the Chichester area by more than 84 per cent in the last seven years.
Organised criminal gangs are dumping lorry-loads of rubbish across the UK as part of an illegal waste clearing service.
analysis by the BBC found the number of incidents of large-scale fly-tipping has more than doubled since 2012.
In the year 2011-2012, the number of fly-tipping incidents recorded in the district was 63 but for the year 2018-2019 it increased to 116.
Police and environmental groups say the nature of fly-tipping is changing – a shift driven by a surge in criminal gangs offering illegal waste clearing services.
Each year, councils across England and Wales collate the number, size and cost of illegal rubbish dumping in their areas. Anything above the size of a lorry-load can be investigated by the Environment Agency, though the cost of clearance lies with the local council.
The incidents are costly to clear and analysis has found councils have spent more than £59million on their removal since 2012.
Local authorities are responsible for investigating, clearing and taking appropriate enforcement action in relation to small-scale fly-tipping on public land.
A Chichester District Council spokesman said: “Fly-tipping is an offence that we take very seriously. Not only does it ruin the landscape of our beautiful district, but it also poses an environmental risk and costs over £350,000 of taxpayer money to clear up every year.
“As part of the council’s award winning ‘Against Litter’ campaign, we have been working hard to tackle this crime.”
“We have been informing residents about their waste responsibilities and the importance of using a registered waste carrier to legally dispose of their waste, working with local tradespeople to raise awareness of this important status, supporting local waste carriers who are already registered through the launch of a new scheme that helps them promote the fact that they are licensed and encouraging people to report fly-tipping to us through our website or through the Love West Sussex app.
“We have also employed a dedicated environmental protection officer to investigate fly tips and gather evidence to try and catch those responsible. If they are able to identify who has carried out the fly-tips, they would then look to issue them with a fixed penalty notice or take legal action.
“We also work with officers from neighbouring local authorities and also with the Environment Agency which takes the lead investigating larger scale fly-tips.”
The council also said that every part of the district was affected by fly-tipping so residents and businesses were urged to help solve the problem.
“One of the most important roles that people can play in the fight against fly-tipping is to make sure that anyone they employ to remove excess household waste is licensed as a waste carrier with the Environment Agency.
“What many people are unaware of is that if they pay someone to remove their waste and then this is then fly-tipped, they can be held responsible. This could result in a prosecution and a fine. By law, we are all responsible for our own waste.
“This is known as ‘duty of care’, and means that whether you have finished a DIY project, been clearing out unwanted household items, or, have been busy sprucing up your garden, it is down to you to make sure that your waste is disposed of safely and legally. People should always ask for a waste transfer note at the point that their waste is removed, along with a receipt, which can then be kept as proof.”
Fly-tipping is a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £50,000 or 12 months’ imprisonment if convicted in a magistrates’ court.
The offence can attract an unlimited fine and up to five years’ imprisonment if convicted in a crown court.
However, very few of the toughest sentences are handed out. Only two £50,000 fines were handed out in 2018-19.
There are also a number of other possible penalties, including fixed penalty notices and having a vehicle seized.
There were rumours that waste sites would start charging visitors to use services but this rumour was quashed by West Sussex County Council.
A spokesman said: “We understand Hampshire County Council will introduce a £5 charge for ‘non-residents’ from April 1, but there is no such charge in West Sussex and no current plans to introduce one.
“We do require visitors to our sites to show ID to prove they live within West Sussex.
“People living outside of the county are asked to use waste facilities within their own local authority.”
Information supplied by BBC Shared Data Unit