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Minister: The number of incidents of large scale flytipping dealt with last year (2016) by the Environment Agency also increased to more than 200
However in 2017 it appears that the Environment Agency only took one major case through to prosecution.
The police have little interest. The local authority is happy to say ‘it’s on your land, you deal with it’ and the Environment Agency says ‘we haven’t any money,” – Farmer quoted by Farmers Weekly

Let’s look at the facts:

Fly-tipping: council responsibilities DEFRA Guidance 2016.This states that

However, you need to contact the Environment Agency if the illegally dumped waste is:

  • more than 20 tonnes (about 20 cubic metres),
  • more than 5 cubic metres of fibrous asbestos or 75 litres of potentially hazardous waste in drums or containers
  • possibly linked to criminal business activity or organised crime

Farmers Weekly – Stop the Blot campaign

Farmers Weekly Survey Aug 2017 – The burden of fly-tipping on Farmers

“The police have little interest. The local authority is happy to say ‘it’s on your land, you deal with it’ and the Environment Agency says ‘we haven’t any money’,” said one victim in eastern England.

House of Commons Debate 21st Nov 2017 – Fly-tipping in Rural Areas

DEFRA minister Therese Coffey said that “The number of incidents of large scale flytipping dealt with last year by the Environment Agency also increased to more than 200″.

Neil Parish, Chair of the Environment, Food andRural Affairs Committee said that”

It is really good that we are having this debate. It is not only about catching the perpetrators, either through the local authority or the Environment Agency; it is also about making sure that they are prosecuted and that the fines are very heavy. Otherwise, it is worth their while tipping the waste and saving the money, rather than taking it to a waste disposal site; if they are caught and fined, the figure is so small that they can carry on doing it. We really need to catch them and make the penalty a deterrent, because at the moment it is not.

However there were no references in the debate to the number of prosecutions for fly-tipping made by the Environment Agency.

My Freedom of Information requests

I put in a Freedom of Information request on 20th January 2017 to the EA headed “Fly-tipping” asking, inter alia, for the number of prosecution  made with regard to incidents of fly-tipping handled by the Environment Agency for the period Jan 1 2006 – 31st Dec 2015.

Their response showed that number had declined from 96 in 2006 to 26 in 2015.

In their covering note the EA stated that

The Environment Agency and local authorities have an agreed protocol for investigating fly-tipping. The amount and type of waste and is used to determine the appropriate response and authority to investigate.

If illegally dumped waste is more than 20 tonnes it is likely to be referred to the Environment Agency. Local authorities have taken on responsibility for enforcement of smaller ‘fly-tipping’ waste offences.

The Environment Agency has specialist teams who work in partnership with local councils, the police and HMRC to tackle waste crime. Our specialist crime unit uses intelligence to track and prosecute organised crime gangs involved in illegal waste activity.

We are determined to make life hard for criminals. We support legitimate business and we are proactively supporting them by disrupting and stopping the criminal element backed up by the threat of more tough enforcement action and prosecution.

In recent years the Environment Agency has concentrated its enforcement of illegal waste activity against more serious offences rather than the activity which is often regarded as fly-tipping.

The items relevant are prosecutions made under s.33 (1) (a) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and reg.38 of the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2007 and 2010.

The term “fly-tipping” is not used on our prosecutions database, so the range of offences identified this way may be somewhat broader than those you may consider to be classed as fly-tipping.

On 30th November 2017 I put in another FOIA request to the EA also headed “Fly-tipping” asking for an update to my earlier request.

In response on 4th January  /11th January 2018 they said that, under Section 33 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 there were 270 incidents / 41 prosecutions in 2016 and 253 incidents / 28 prosecutions in 2017.

I then asked for further details and was sent a spreadsheet showing all EPA S33(1) prosecution for 2016 and 2017

Analysis of data

The spreadsheet showed 41 prosecutions for 2016 and 30 for 2017 but, on examination and further research, it became apparent that the majority of the prosecutions were for offences related to the mis-management of waste transfer/ treatment / storage sites rather than fly-tipping.

In fact only three of the 30 cases in 2017 were definitely for fly-tipping. Two of these were in effect the same case as two members of the same family were prosecuted for the same incident. Their combined fines were £75,000. In the other case the fine was only £900.

There were two other cases where I was not able to determine whether or not they were for fly-tipping. The fines in each case were £850 and £1,600.

So it looks as if the Environment Agency only took one incident of major large scale fly-tipping through to prosecution in 2017.

Not surprisingly therefore in July 2019 when asked for the revenue raised from fly-tipping fines in the last 5 years DEFRA Minister Therese Coffey only gave a figure for money raised by local authorities.

E-mail to Permanent Secretary at DEFRA 26th Sept 2018

Peter Silverman
6th August 2019


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