An agricultural expert has warned of the hidden financial and emotional cost of fly-tipping after figures showed that there were over 2,700 incidents in Burnley in 2018/19.
According to stats released by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), there was an increase in fly-tipping cases in Burnley from 2,660 in 2017/18 to 2,702 this year, leading Tony Laking, of Farmers and Mercantile Insurance Brokers (FMIB) to call it a "scourge".
With 12 incidents this year taking place on agricultural land, Tony has warned that the data does not reflect the scale of the issue for farmers, as most cases on private land go unreported and victims are left to foot the clean-up bill or face prosecution.
“Fly-tipping is a scourge on the farming community," he said. “Councils spend millions every year on clean-up costs but private land-owners, such as farmers, are suffering in silence with little or no assistance or recourse.
“The burden of dumped rubbish falling squarely with farmers," added Tony. "Moving the mess on to public land will not solve the issue but exacerbate it, which farmers need to be mindful of. In one incident we encountered, a farmer was unwittingly branded a fly-tipper after finding tyres dumped over his hedge, he moved them on the other side of the hedgerow and informed the authorities.
"Although the waste was collected, he was slapped with a prosecution order for fly-tipping," Tony explained. “Farmers are already faced with a myriad of difficulties and having to fork out [for] someone else’s mess just compounds these stresses.”
According to the National Rural Crime Network, fly-tipping is now the most common crime experienced by specific rural business owners (mainly farmers), with Tony stressing the importance of having sufficient protection in the form of insurance.
“If a farmer’s land becomes a fly-tipping hot-spot, costs can quickly escalate and the crime can soon turn from being a nuisance to crippling,” said Tony. “Ensure that fields are secure so that vehicles cannot gain access; fly-tippers do not wish to draw attention to themselves, so ensure good visibility, by cutting back hedges and installing exterior lighting in strategic areas."
Advising those who witness an incident not to approach the culprit and to treat fly-tipped waste as potentially hazardous (incidents reported to Defra included asbestos and clinical and chemical waste), Tony urged victims to ensure animals and the public are not exposed to dangerous material, to record as much detail as possible, and to report the incident to the council.