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The Kent countryside

PUBLISHED: 20:56 15 August 2010 | UPDATED: 17:42 20 February 2013

The Kent countryside

The Kent countryside

While flytipping may be reducing in Kent, flytipping on private land remains the responsibility of the landowner to clear it up

The Kent countryside

While flytipping may be reducing in Kent, flytipping on private land remains the responsibility of the landowner to clear it up

Old tyres, mattresses, building waste: what a blight flytipping is on the countryside. From private individuals, to professionals purporting to be in the business of waste disposal, the culprits are many, and the environmental damage widespread.

On the face of it, the news regarding flytipping in Kent is good. The new powers under the Clean Neighbourhoods Act 2005 lead to a reduction in flytipping incidents from 33,636 in 2003/4 to 21,546 in 2007/8. According to the Clean Kent campaign, the perception that Kent is a clean county increased by 20 percent during the same period.

But what the Clean Neighbourhoods Act did not tackle, and what the statistics do not account for, is that flytipping on private land is the responsibility of the landowner to clear up. We cant blame this on the council, as it is national policy. It currently costs landowners up to 150m a year in England and Wales to clear up flytipped waste, not helped by the fact that farmers and landowners are usually turned away from municipal dumps with flytipped waste.

Survey results released by the Environment Agency also last year showed that 94 per cent of private landowners have suffered from flytipping, and the worst affected had experienced more than 100 separate incidents in a year.

It costs landowners up to 150m a year in England and Wales to clear up flytipped waste

To add insult to injury, landowners are also expected to pick up the far greater bill for the clean-up operation should the waste be hazardous asbestos for example even if they have taken all reasonable attempts to keep the flytippers out. If they dont, they face prosecution. The victim becomes the criminal, simple as that.

On the other hand, prosecutions of fly tippers are still few and far between. An exception was a serial flytipper from Dartford, who was caught out by BBC's Rogue Traders' programme, and received a custodial sentence at Maidstone Crown Court in 2008. But this remains exceptional.

The solution? There should be a requirement to investigate all allegations of flytipping. It is, after all, a crime, yet at the moment it is easy for local authorities and the Environment Agency to simply force the landowner to clear up flytipped waste, rather than go to the trouble of finding the perpetrator themselves.

There should also be specific requirement for the Environment Agency to act on the particular problem of hazardous waste. The costs of clearing up asbestos are enormous, as is the risk of the land becoming contaminated and water being polluted. It is unreasonable to expect landowners to pay these costs when they have done everything within their power to keep the flytippers out.

The last attempt to push through the above amendments to the Environmental Protection Act were blocked by one of those arcane procedural wheezes which come into play when a perfectly justifiable piece of legislation could prove inconvenient: the 10-minute rule Bill.

This was a missed opportunity to take positive action to tackle an increasingly difficult and worrying problem. With the launch of the Government database Flycapture in April, however, we at last have a chance to give the flytipping problem some statistical weight. To report incidents of flytipping in your area, please put flycapture into any online search engine.

One plea: think twice before accepting offers from strangers claiming they can dispose cheaply of waste materials. They should always be able to produce a Waste Transfer Note: if not, the offer is almost certainly too good to be legitimate, and your waste will hit someone elses pocket.

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