A RECENT report has shown that fly-tipping incidents have increased by at least 50 per cent across the country.

Figures by the BBC indicate that a significant secondary problem has emerged as a consequence of the coronavirus lockdown – illegal waste disposal.

Some farmers and landowners have always experienced this on a weekly basis, but now it looks more like a daily occurrence and despite other more pressing seasonal farming priorities, dealing with the disposal presently is fast becoming a daily emergency.

Paul Graham, managing director of H&H Insurance Brokers, said: “I know that many farmers have already spent precious time setting up measures to protect their land against illegal waste disposal, but fly-tipping is currently on the increase so they need to be extra vigilant.

"Coronavirus, is exacerbating the problem and many are finding unscrupulous parties have dumped waste on their farmland. Given the lockdown is far from over, I would not expect this to change overnight.”

Due to social distancing guidelines, councils have been forced to close waste and recycling centres, collection services have been disrupted due to staff sickness and the knock-on effect has been a surge in fly tipping incidents.

Farmers have a legal duty to clean up this waste, meaning farmers can be penalised if they refuse to clean up the waste left on their land and be subject to court proceedings initiated by the Environment Agency.

Waste removal must be done responsibly. In the past, this mostly meant through a council waste disposal facility or weekly council collection services. However, it can be done by a privately-owned third party, but even this can be fraught with problems. These private services must have the correct licence in place, specifically a Waste Carrier Licence and when the refuse is collected, should be served with a Waste Transfer Note. Any company not registered with the Environment Agency, should be avoided at all costs. In some cases, for example removal of asbestos, a specialist removal service is required due to the hazards involved.

If farmers are on the receiving end of illegally dumped waste, it is advisable to clear it as early as possible. The waste could be contaminated and would be the farmer's responsibility if harm was caused to another. If contaminated waste is removed incorrectly, it could lead to action being taken by the Environment Agency. This means that before removing any waste, it is always worth doing a risk assessment first to ensure that removal is safe and within regulations.

If a private company removes the waste, care must be taken. If they then go on to illegally dump the waste and it is traced back to the farm, it will be the farmer that has to pick up the fine, which can be up to £50,000. Many innocent parties have been on the receiving end of this fraud and know nothing until the regulators or police turn up on their doorstep with photographic evidence and threatening court action.

Paul urges farmers to review access to their land and put some simple preventative measures in place to stop fly-tippers and perhaps even working with neighbouring landowners on a wide-scale Neighbourhood Watch Scheme. This includes securing access points with fences, gates and logs and reducing visibility so fly-tippers can’t work unnoticed. Installing CCTV along with clear warning signage can also have a positive impact.

Paul concludes: “We need to ensure that farmers and indeed councils are not left with a greater problem than we already have with a global pandemic.

“Setting up the right measures to prevent this happening on your land should be step one, but step two is also very important, that is to put in place insurance to cover you for the financial repercussions of fly-tipping along with Environmental Liability Insurance to cover yourself against potential liability claims.”

H&H Insurance Brokers is an independent insurance broker and can be contacted on 01228 406290.