Criminal gangs dump hundreds of lorry-load fly-tips in Peterborough
Organised criminal gangs are dumping lorry-loads of rubbish in Peterborough as part of an illegal waste clearing service.
A Freedom of Information request has revealed that Peterborough City Council cleared on average more than 130 major fly-tips a year for the past four years.
Over the past eight years, the cost of disposing the biggest fly-tips has cost the cash-strapped authority £208,000, including nearly £30,000 last year.
Analysis by the BBC Local News Partnerships has found the number of incidents of large-scale fly-tipping has more than doubled in England and Wales since 2012.
Police and environmental groups say the nature of fly-tipping is changing - a shift driven by a surge in criminal gangs offering illegal waste clearing services.
Each year, councils across England and Wales collate the number, size and cost of illegal rubbish dumping in their areas. Anything above the size of a lorry-load can be investigated by the Environment Agency, though the cost of clearance lies with the council.
In Peterborough, the number of lorry-load fly-tips jumped from 16 in 2013/14 to 193 in 2016/17, before reducing to 96 and 114 in the following years.
In the past four years, the average is 134.5.
Sarah Lee, head of policy at Countryside Alliance, said: “Fly-tipping is growing every year - a crisis affecting farmers and landowners and driven by criminal gangs running illegal dumping operations.
“95 per cent of fines for fly-tipping are lower than the cost of hiring a skip which makes the risk for criminal gangs minimal.
“When you think of fly-tipping in the countryside you have images of fridges, sofas and other household waste - but you are now getting fake waste companies hiring out barns and farm buildings, dumping waste in them, doing a runner and leaving it for farmers to dispose of the waste at huge cost to them.”
Julia Mulligan: chair of the National Rural Crime Network, said: “Failures to act against fly-tipping misunderstand the impact on communities and rural businesses.
“Not only does it make people feel less safe and blight our communities, but the financial cost of dealing with the waste is significant.
“Most importantly, though, it is generally thought larger scale fly-tipping stems from serious and organised criminals, and so failing to deal with those offenders adequately has knock-on consequences.”
Since 2012, there have been 191,968 large-scale tips recorded across England.
The total number recorded by the Government last year (36,263) was up by 117 per cent on the figure recorded in 2012/13 when the number of large scale fly-tips was 16,702.
Since the 2012/13 financial year, councils in England have spent just over £59 million clearing large scale tips. The bill for such incidents was at its highest in 2018/19.
The cost of removing such large-scale fly-tipping last year took up a 21 per cent chunk of the overall clearance cost in England - even though the number of large incidents accounted for only 3.4 per cent cent of the total of all fly-tipping incidents reported.
In 2012/13, the proportion of money spent on clearing major tips stood at 14 per cent.
A spokesperson for Peterborough City Council said: “Fly-tipping effects every town and city across the UK and unfortunately Peterborough is no different. We take fly-tipping extremely seriously and are actively working to tackle the problem.
“The total number of fly-tipping incidents in Peterborough has decreased over the past year following the opening of our improved replacement Household Recycling Centre in February 2019, which is making it easier for residents to dispose of bulky waste.
“We have set up a task and finish group which is exploring options to tackle the problem and are taking part in the ongoing Scrap It Campaign which has focused on raising awareness of people’s duty of care when it comes to disposing of waste. We are also in the process of purchasing both overt and covert cameras to catch and prosecute fly tippers.
“We would urge members of the public to report fly-tipping to us by calling 01733 747474 or online at www.peterborough.gov.uk.”
Punishments for fly-tipping
Fly-tipping is a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £50,000 or 12 months’ imprisonment if convicted in a magistrates’ court.
The offence can attract an unlimited fine and up to five years’ imprisonment if convicted in a crown court.
However, very few of the toughest sentences are handed out. Only two £50,000 fines were handed out in 2018/19.
There are also a number of other possible penalties, including fixed penalty notices and having a vehicle seized.
From May 2016, local authorities in England have been able to issue fixed penalty notices between £150 to £400 for small-scale fly-tipping offences pursuant to the Unauthorised Deposit of Waste (Fixed Penalties) Regulations 2016.