The good news is that fly-tipping in Shropshire is going down. The latest statistics show an 11% year-on-year fall in reports of fly-tipping in the unitary council area, much better than the 3% fall in the rest of England.
It’s not all good news unfortunately. The number of incidents is still higher than five years ago. Shropshire Council spent nearly £100,000 on cleaning up the mess and prosecuting offenders. The council needs to improve its enforcement. And we all need to do more to report fly-tipping incidents.
Fly-tipping is one of the curses of our age. Bags of household waste, sofas and discarded televisions litter our streets and countryside. It harder to get to the recycling centre these days, especially here in Ludlow. Shropshire Council closed the Coder Road recycling centre three years ago and it’s a 20 mile round trip to the nearest centre in Craven Arms.
Research by Keep Britain Tidy shows that more than a third of people think it’s okay to dump items like sofas rather than take them to a waste, recycling or reuse centre. And 70% of local authorities think fly-tipping is a major problem.
In 2015/16, there were 1,314 reported fly-tipping incidents in Shropshire. That’s well down on the 1,660 reported in 2013/14 but still above the level for 2010/11.
Most of the incidents in 2015/16 were on public land (96%), predominately on the highways. This is rather more than the national average (81%).
I am sure there is significant underreporting of fly-tipping on private land, in Shropshire and across the country. While council taxpayers shoulder the cost of clearing illegally tipped waste from public land, landowners and tenants must pay the costs of removing fly-tipped materials. They have no incentive to report incidents to councils.
Fly-tipping on the Plymouth Estate off Middle Wood Road
In Shropshire, 934 incidents involved what appears to be household waste (71%). Another 62 incidents involved green waste, such as garden debris and hedge cuttings – all of which can be composted. Fortunately, there were only four incidents of asbestos being dumped and only three of clinical waste.
Household waste dumped on Foldgate Lane
Shropshire Council investigated nearly half of the cases of fly-tipping reported to it in 2015/16 (641 cases; 49%). Those inquiries led to just 100 enforcement actions (8%). These were two prosecutions, 60 warning letters and eight fixed penalty notices. There were 30 inspections to check whether businesses were dealing with waste responsibly under the waste duty of care.
We spend very little on enforcement in Shropshire, just £22,000 a year.
Unsold pumpkins fly-tipped on the Eco Park last Halloween
The latest statistics confirm that fly-tipping in Shropshire is at a relatively low level compared to other areas of the country. There are fewer than five items fly-tipped each year for every 1,000 people that live in the county. This compares to around 13 items per 1,000 people nationally and 38 per 1,000 in London.
Although our fly-tipping record is not as bad as in some rural districts and urban areas, we can’t be complacent. Many areas of Shropshire rely on tourism. Visitors will be put off coming to our county if they encounter a dirty countryside with debris tipped along lanes and roadsides.
The council should strengthen enforcement and send out a clear message that fly-tipping is not welcome in this county.
Residents and visitors can help by reporting incidents to Shropshire Council through its Report It microsite. This has a rather old and clunky interface. I prefer FixMyStreet. Run by the charity mySociety, FixMyStreet provides an app for mobile phones. That means you can use the phone’s geolocation system to take a photo and report anything from out of action streetlighting, dangerous paving, dog fouling, litter and much more, including fly-tipping.
FixMyStreet for Shropshire (laptop view)
. Shropshire: highways 84%; footpaths and bridleways 4%; railways 1%; council land 7%. England: highways 48%; footpaths and bridleways 16%; railways >0%; council land 17%.
. I have assumed that white goods and other electrical items that are fly-tipped are household waste.