LOCAL councils have been urged to crack down hard on fly-tippers.

Illegal dumping of waste and rubbish in the countryside is said to be spiralling out of control leaving farmers and landowners having to pay thousands of pounds to have it removed.

Latest figures show local authorities dealt with more than one million fly-tipping incidents in England during 2016-17 – a rise of seven per cent on the previous year.

Now the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) and NFU have called on the Government, councils and police to work together to crack down hard on offenders.

Ross Murray, CLA president, said: “Fly-tipping is a national disgrace. Prosecutions for this crime are ludicrously low, and have decreased by a further 25 per cent. It is high time that Government took a much more active role in tackling this blight on the countryside.”

He said the latest Government figures did not even include rubbish fly-tipped on private land, which landowners and farmers have to clear up.

Mr Murray said: “Greater penalties should be imposed and enforced including seizing fly-tippers’ vehicles, and victims should be better supported. We are calling for the appointment of a national fly-tipping Tsar to co-ordinate and oversee a more pro-active effort to get to grips with this national disgrace.”

Dorothy Fairburn, CLA director North, said if private landowners do not remove the illegally tipped rubbish they risk prosecution for illegal storage of waste – it was simply not fair.

She said: “We are calling on the Government to remove landowner liability to clear up waste on private land and for local councils to introduce a scheme that would allow any private landowner to dispose of fly-tipped rubbish at a waste disposal site free of charge.”

Miss Fairburn urged councils to fully exercise their powers in prosecuting fly-tippers. “Preston and Hyndburn Borough Councils between them seized 20 vehicles in the Government’s reporting period, compared with only three across the entire North-East, so there is great variance on how local authorities act on fly-tippers,” she said.

“The maximum fine is £50,000 or 12 months imprisonment if convicted in a Magistrates’ Court, but this is never enforced. If it was, it might deter fly-tippers. Frequently, it costs more to bring an offender to court than the penalty actually imposed.”

Minette Batters, NFU deputy president, said farmers and landowners do all they can to prevent fly-tippers, such as installing gates, barriers, warning signs, security cameras and lighting.

But, she said, in many cases the deterrents do not work. “These fly-tippers are people intent on breaking the law and they think nothing of cutting padlocks, breaking gates and smashing cameras.

“The NFU wants to see Government pull together a national picture of fly-tipping and use it to coordinate all agencies to target and deter offenders.

“We believe better communication between Government, local authorities, police forces and the Environment Agency will give those impacted more confidence to report incidents that in turn will lead to investigation and prosecution.”