Call for review after another rise in number of fly-tipping incidents

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Fly-tipping is on the rise again, with the number of incidents up for the third year in a row, official figures show.

Councils across England reported 936,090 cases of fly-tipping in 2015/2016, up 4% on the previous year, the data from the Environment Department (Defra) reveals.

Clearing up the fly-tipped rubbish cost councils £49.8 million.

Local authorities carried out 494,000 enforcement actions to tackle the problem which blights towns and countryside, costing them £16.9 million, a reduction of nearly £700,000 on 2014/2015.

As the figures were published, campaigners warned financial pressure on local councils had caused some waste collection services to be cut, which people had "taken as a licence to dump their waste illegally".

Around half of the rubbish illegally tipped, which ranges from fridges, tyres and vehicle parts to rubble and black bags of household waste, was dumped on highways.

A third of all incidents consisted of a quantity of material equivalent to a "small van load".

The figures do not yet show if new powers for councils to hand out "on-the-spot" fines of up to £400 for fly-tipping incidents, which came into force in May 2016, have helped reduce the problem.

A Press Association analysis earlier this year revealed councils had handed out hundreds of thousands of pounds in fines, but more than half of English local authorities had not used the powers.

The Defra figures suggest fly-tipping incidents have fallen from more than 1.28 million in 2007/2008 to around 711,500 cases in 2012/2013 before starting to rise again, although the changes may in part be down to the way councils record the data.

The Environment Agency dealt with 125 major fly-tipping cases in 2015/2016, including six incidents of illegally dumping asbestos, 11 large-scale tyre dumps and 26 cases of tipping chemical drums, oil or fuel.

Samantha Harding, litter programme director at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said: "Financial pressure on local councils has caused some local collection services to be cut and it seems that people have taken this as a licence to dump their waste illegally.

"There needs to be a review of England's struggling waste management systems, with a new ambitious programme to haul them into the 21st century.

"We cannot afford to waste our valuable resources in this way."

Country Land and Business Association (CLA) president Ross Murray said: "These figures do not tell the full story of this disgraceful behaviour which blights our beautiful countryside.

"Local authorities tend not to get involved with clearing incidences of fly-tipped waste from private land leaving the landowner to clean up and foot the bill."

CLA members have reported a big increase in fly-tipping, with incidents ranging from unwanted sofas to broken washing machines, building materials and even asbestos dumped in the countryside, he said.

The CLA is calling for a zero-tolerance approach by local government to the problem, imposing and enforcing stronger penalties, ensuring powers to use fixed penalty notices and seize vehicles are used and reducing council fees to legally dispose of waste.

Local Government Association environment spokeswoman Judith Blake said: "At a time when social care faces a funding gap of at least £2.6 billion by 2020 and councils' overall funding shortfall is predicted to reach £5.8 billion within three years, local authorities are having to spend a vast amount each year on tackling litter and fly-tipping.

"This is money that would be better spent on vital front line services. Litter and fly-tipping is environmental vandalism - it's unpleasant, unnecessary and unacceptable."

She welcomed the Government's move to give councils power to hand out fixed penalty notices for small-scale fly-tipping.

Other changes would help with the problem, such as manufacturers providing more take-back services so people can hand in old furniture and mattresses when they buy new ones, she said.

A Defra spokesman said: "Fly-tipping blights communities and poses a risk to human health and the environment, which is why we are committed to tackling this anti-social behaviour so everyone can enjoy a cleaner, healthier country.

"New powers to issue £400 fixed penalty notices and advances in technology, including mobile phone reporting, have all made it easier for local authorities to clamp down on small-scale fly-tipping which should be welcomed - and 98% of fly-tipping prosecutions resulting in a conviction is a clear warning to anyone involved in serious waste crime."