FLY-TIPPING and dog fouling offenders are set to be the focus of a ramped up programme of investigations, a meeting has heard, in a fresh drive to improve the environment for residents.

Darlington Borough Council’s community safety cabinet member, Councillor Jonathan Dulston said the authority’s resources would be concentrated on gathering evidence with a view to disrupting “these people who continue to destroy our neighbourhoods”.

He was speaking at a meeting of the council’s local services scrutiny committee, which had heard councillors question how much enforcement action had been taken.

Councillors said there had an increase in fly-tipping in some areas of the town and dog fouling was “horrific” and affected almost every street.

The meeting was told a man from Darlington had been fined £259 at Peterlee Magistrates Court last week for leaving fouling by three lurcher dogs on land at Bylands Way.

When pressed over the number of other prosecutions over the last year, Graham Hall, the council’s head of community safety, said it had been “very very low”. He added: “Clearly there are other actions that have been taken.”

Mr Hall said the council had completed 28 of its 48 planned Back Lanes improvement measures over the last year, including preventative activities.

He said enforcement officers were identifying fly-tipping hotspots and getting rubbish removed rapidly. Work to remind residents of their responsibilities had seen less waste dumped in areas where the council had grave concerns, Mr Hall said.

He added: “Fly-tipping continues to be a challenge. Clearly, there has been some success in some areas. We need good flows of intelligence to where the problems are occurring.”

The meeting was told the council would take positive action if there was evidence of fly-tipping culprits. Mr Hall said while he understood residents’ reluctance to identify those responsible, the authority achieved the best results when offenders had been identified by residents.

He said the council also needed information from residents about dog fouling so it could take action at a site.

Cllr Dulston said he had put a lot of pressure on both the police and the community safety team to target commercial fly-tippers.

He said: “The approach that we’ve taken recently has been positive. There’s no mistake or apologies that we crushed a vehicle last month and that had a massive impact to that particular organisation. We will continue to do that because that’s the only way we will disrupt these people who continue to destroy our neighbourhoods.

"We need to increase our capacity with investigators to make sure we can have some meaningful cases put together, whether that’s closure orders on properties causing a nuisance, dog fouling in our communities or investigations to crush even more vehicles.”