West Sussex fly-tipping incidents increase – but figures could be ‘tip of iceberg’

Fly-tipping incidents in West Sussex have increased – but the thousands of cases officially recorded countywide could be just the ‘tip of the iceberg’, a group has warned.

Monday, 8th March 2021, 4:46 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 2:15 pm
A fly-tip at Petworth last year
A fly-tip at Petworth last year

West Sussex councils recorded 5,731 fly-tipping incidents between April 2019 and March 2020, up by 7.16 per cent on the previous 12 months, government figures have revealed.

But the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents thousands of rural businesses, said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs figures did not include the ‘vast majority’ of fly-tips on private land.

CLA president Mark Bridgeman said: “While these figures are alarming, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“Cases of fly-tipping on privately owned land are significantly more than on public land so these government figures do not reflect the true scale of this type of organised crime, which blights our rural communities.”

‘Urgent reforms’ needed

The data showed only Adur and Worthing councils experienced a decrease in fly-tips in West Sussex in 2019/20.

A total of 407 incidents were reported in Adur, down from 612, while 352 fly-tips in Worthing was slightly less than the 371 recorded in the previous year.

Arun District Council reported the highest number of incidents in West Sussex at 1,455 – up 35.73 per cent.

DEFRA also revealed the extent of action taken by councils against fly-tippers.

West Sussex authorities took action in 789 cases, according to the figures.

This included 379 fixed penalty notices – all issued by Arun – for littering ‘in conjunction with fly-tipping’.

Warning letters were sent out in 358 cases, while 32 statutory notices – an official warning which could lead to prosecution if the recipient does not comply with the council’s orders – were issued and 18 fixed penalty notices ‘specifically for fly-tipping’ were recorded. Crawley recorded two ‘formal caution actions’.

There were no recorded prosecutions.

A spokesman for Arun District Council said: “We consider fly tipping to consist of a black bin liner, or items larger in size, being dumped in one location.

“We have recently been granted powers to issue fixed-penalty notices (FPNs) of £400 for fly-tipping and have only issued a couple so far.

“We would rather not be in the position where any action is needed and urge those responsible to dispose of items correctly in the first place.

“It was hard to decipher the data provided but we believe the table shows more than 300 fines issued and it seems that both littering FPNs of £80 and Fly-tipping FPNs (above) have been combined.”

Mr Bridgeman argued tougher action was needed to stop fly-tipping incidents increasing further.

The CLA has produced a five-point plan calling on councils, the Environment Agency and police forces to commit to stronger action against the increase of fly-tipping on private land – together with reforms.

Mr Bridgeman said: “Part of the problem is that it’s currently too simple to gain a waste carrying licence that enables firms to transport and dispose of waste – and this needs urgent reform with correct checks put in place. A revamped system would act as a deterrent.”

Rubble, asbestos, loos and more

This newspaper has been told of the significant impact on landowners affected by a series of fly-tips.

Carola Godman Irvine, of Ote Hall Farm, near Burgess Hill, said her land had been affected by fly-tipping on numerous occasions. Rural crime briefings showed incidents were happening on a daily basis across Sussex, she said.

“Our gates have been torn off their hinges, chains and padlocks cut with bolt cutters, and vehicles being driven across both grass fields and arable fields to hide rubbish in the furthest corner of the fields into wooded areas and ditches, away from view of the roads,” she said.

“We have had builders’ rubbish including replacement window frames and doors, rubble, asbestos, sinks, loos and other rubbish. We have also had household waste including sofas, beds, freezers, cookers, washing machines, mattresses, cots, chairs, computers, buggies and general house hold rubbish. We have also had fly-tipping left in gateways and thrown over hedges and fences straight off the roads.”

Mrs Godman Irvine suggested restrictions at waste and recycling tips may have contributed to an increase in fly-tipping. She said: “Much of this is possibly due to councils making it almost impossible for any of this to be delivered to their tips.

“Even ordinary members of the public are being turned away if there is something in their boot or pick-up which they consider not household waste.

“I have had a number of occasions when I have gone with an old mower or old rusty bikes and other things and been told to go away as they considered it was clearly a contractor’s mower and I was a bike dealer. The mower was an old one which we used on the garden here for over 20 years.

“Those being turned away may have no alternative but to throw their rubbish over a hedge on their way home.”

Mrs Godman Irvine believes charges for builders’ waste are too high.

“They have to travel too far in many cases, and they are made to queue sometimes for over an hour – that during a working week is unaffordable for them,” she added.

West Sussex County Council operates tips across the county.

In response, a spokesman said: “Fly-tipping is both criminal and antisocial and there is no excuse for it regardless of the policy at household waste recycling sites (HWRSs).

“Large scale fly-tipping is perpetrated by rogue traders and other criminals and is, in any case, often outside the scope and scale of household waste permitted at the sites.

“Fly-tipping has been on the increase nationally in recent years regardless of the changes to HWRSs. Those who perpetrate it risk large fines or imprisonment if convicted.

“Householders can avoid unwittingly contributing to fly-tipping by ensuring that if they pay anyone to take waste away, they are a reputable company or local trader with a waste carrier’s licence.

“Changes are currently being implemented at HWRSs to make the experience of visiting sites quicker and easier for West Sussex residents.

“More information is available here: https://www.westsussex.gov.uk/news/changes-to-household-waste-recycling-sites-confirmed”

Full West Sussex figures revealed

Across England as a whole, nearly one million fly-tips were reported by councils in 2019/20 – a rise of two per cent.

The South East saw a spike of 8.06 per cent, according to the figures.

The period covered included just one week of the first national Covid lockdown, so the impact of the pandemic is not yet known.

The full West Sussex figures for 2019/20 – and percentage increases on 2018/19 – were as follows:

Adur: 407 (-33.5 per cent)

Arun: 1,455 (+35.73 per cent)

Chichester: 1,011 (+2.85 per cent)

Crawley: 1,049 (+4.27 per cent)

Horsham: 1,066 (+4.72 per cent)

Mid Sussex: 391 (+36.71 per cent)

Worthing: 352 (-5.12 per cent)

Total: 5,731 (+7.16 per cent)