Private rural landowners are calling for stronger enforcement of legal action to help combat the fly-tipping that is blighting the countryside.

Figures released by Defra this week show the number of reports of waste dumped illegally on public land has decreased by just 1% since 2016.

Over the same legal action taken by councils against the perpetrators has increased 4%, with 494,034 actions taken. However this is less than the number of actions taken each year between 2013/4 and 2015/6.

Out of 997,553 fly-tipping incidents in 2017-2018, 137 vehicles were seized (down from 197 the year before), and out of 2,243 prosecutions, 1,938 fines were imposed, most commonly between £200-500.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) claims the figures do not reflect the true scale of the crime because reports of fly-tipping on private rural land are not included.

CLA president Tim Breitmeyer said: “The reality is that overall, figures are considerably higher than these latest official figures, as many incidents go unrecorded and unreported. Private landowners are liable for any waste dumped on their land and are fed up of having to clear up other people’s mess and paying for the privilege.

“It is vital that more prosecutions are brought forward successfully to encourage people to do the right thing and dispose of their rubbish through proper legal channels.

Councils must send a clear message to fly-tippers that they will face financial consequences.

“But to really combat this crime against the countryside we need to see tougher penalties which act as a true deterrent. Imposing and enforcing stiffer penalties which better reflect the seriousness of the crime is crucial, along with seizing the vehicles used to fly-tip."

£600 million

An independent review published yesterday that identified fly-tipping had cost the English economy more than £600 million in 2015.

It recommended rogue waste crime operators could be slapped with new fines if they mislabel their waste to dodge tax rules.

It also concluded that compulsory electronic tracking of waste could help clamp-down on illegal movements of waste at home and abroad and that there should be financial penalties for producers if their waste is found to be deposited illegally.

The recommendations will now be considered and responded to in Defra’s forthcoming Resources and Waste Strategy.