In February this year a football ground in Greenford, owned by the London Playing Fields Foundation, was broken into and tonnes of waste dumped on the pitch over a ten-day period, during which time the intruders claimed squatters’ rights and caused over £100,000 of damage. Although the police were called out a number of times they were unable to take enforcement action and the charity had to pursue court action in order to secure their eviction. They were then faced with the unpleasant and expensive task of legally removing the waste.

The assumption is that the charity was the victim of an organised, criminal gang. Although the scale of the outrage was significantly larger than most incidents of fly tipping, its experience serves as a timely reminder to landowners about the resultant disruption and cost. The number of incidents across the country is on the rise again and, although most involve household waste (the sort of quantity which fits into a small van or the boot of a car), more serious cases involving lorry loads of commercial, industrial or construction waste pose a major logistical and financial problem for landowners whose responsibility it becomes.

If you discover fly tipping – report it

Landowners are not obliged to report fly tipping on their land to the authorities (although both local authorities and the Environment Agency (EA) can access the land without permission to deal with the rubbish if it poses a pollution threat) and so much goes unreported. Local authorities and the EA are keen to record as much information as possible about fly tipping and its associated costs on the ‘Flycapture’ database, originally set up by the EA in 2004. By reporting fly tipping, farmers can help local authorities monitor the scale of the activity which, in turn, will lend added weight to the NFU’s campaign to change the law to require local authorities, landowners and the police to work collaboratively on ‘prevention, clean-up and prosecution’.

Prevention is easier than cure

Clearly the logistical difficulty of securing a farm boundary cannot be underestimated and it is almost impossible to deter the organised criminal fly tipper. However, there are some things you can do to deter the majority of casual fly tippers:

  • Secure your land using immoveable objects such as large logs, rocks, earth mounds, gates, fences and other barriers - but do not impede rights of way.
  • Erect ‘No Tipping’ signs with threats of prosecution.
  • Remove fly tipped waste quickly before it attracts others to follow suit.
  • Liaise with neighbours to identify and block any weak, accessible spots on your boundaries.
  • Use CCTV if feasible

Catching fly tippers is the first problem as clearly they know their activity is illegal. However, if caught, they can be fined up to £50,000 in the Magistrate’s Court, face unlimited fines in Crown Courts or imprisonment for up to five years. If you encounter someone fly tipping, exercise caution but if you can photograph the incident and make a note of the vehicle registration without compromising your safety, then do so.

Raise awareness of fly tipping

The National Fly Tipping Prevention Group encourages information and intelligence sharing and there are a number of regional initiatives to try and tackle this scourge but most people are currently left to deal with the problem themselves. Reporting fly tipping is the first step to raising awareness of how a big a concern it has become and will encourage a better, coordinated approach. Do not do what a farmer in Suffolk did last year: he moved tonnes of waste he found dumped on his land onto a neighbouring highway. He was fined £1000 with £1600 costs and then had to pay £4000 to have it removed.

This article is included in our Law and Land magazine; spring/summer 2017 edition.