Government considering new powers to crack down on fly-tipping

Households whose rubbish ends up being fly-tipped or dumped illegally by disposal companies could face fixed-penalty fines under new plans being considered by the Government.

A consultation by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has suggested giving councils the power to directly fine people caught using unlicensed waste carriers.

It is intended to spare local authorities the cost of chasing problem homeowners through the courts, while encouraging others to check their refuse is being disposed of legally.

A carpet abandoned on a street in central London (Westminster Council/PA)
A carpet abandoned on a street in central London (Westminster Council/PA)

Guidance will be issued on how such fines should be applied to stop councils abusing it to stump up extra cash, Defra said.

The new measures form part of a Government drive to thwart fly-tippers and shut down illegal waste sites.

New powers have been granted to the Environment Agency (EA) to prevent thousands of tonnes of rubbish piling up at problem hotspots by blocking access or locking gates.

Operators at the sites also face being forced to clear all the waste there, not just that left illegally, Defra announced.

The changes will be brought in by spring 2018 following a vote in Parliament as part of an effort to offset the soaring cost of waste crime.

Clean-up costs and lost landfill tax revenues deprived the English economy of more than £600 million in 2015, Defra said, while legitimate waste disposal businesses also lost money.

Hundreds of thousands of fly-tipping incidents were reported across the country in 2016/17, including more than 360,000 in London and more than 128,000 in the north-west of England.

Household waste makes up nearly two-thirds of fly-tipped rubbish, Defra said.

Foul odours, vermin and the risk of fires are among the problems brought about by the presence of the illegal dumping grounds.

More than 850 such sites were uncovered by the EA during the last year, with an average of two closed each day, according to the Government.

Environment Minister Therese Coffey said: "Waste crime and fly-tipping blight our communities and spoil our countryside, and we need determined action to tackle it.

"These new powers for the Environment Agency will curb the rise of waste sites that continue to operate outside the law.

"But we must all take responsibility for our waste to make sure it does not end up in the hands of criminals who will wilfully dump it."

The consultation launched on Monday will also examine how crime and poor performance in the waste sector can be combated, Defra said.

This could include a tightening of the requirements for someone to hold an EA waste permit, as well as promoting awareness about which sites are legal, it added.

Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency, said: "We welcome these new powers, which will enable our teams to block access to problem sites, preventing illegal waste building up and becoming even more serious."

"This will allow us to take faster action against criminals and will make a real difference to communities, but everyone has a role to play.

"We all need to check our waste is going to the right place and is handled by the right people."