Dead animals, deadly asbestos, and truckloads of rubbish: The true picture of fly-tipping in Blackpool

It's not just rusty fridges and old televisions being illegally dumped on the streets of Blackpool - but rotting animals, deadly asbestos, and hazardous chemicals too.

Wednesday, 13th November 2019, 6:00 am
Bags left in Dickson Road in Blackpool town centre earlier this year (Picture: Michael Holmes)
Bags left in Dickson Road in Blackpool town centre earlier this year (Picture: Michael Holmes)

The Gazette's analysis of official figures, newly released by Defra, has revealed the true scale of fly-tipping in the resort - and the fact that most people get away with it.

There were a total of 3,568 reports lodged with the council last year but, out of 1,411 investigations, the authority was only able to send warning letters in 442 cases.

Just 14 fixed penalty notices were issued specifically for fly-tipping, while nine prosecutions were launched in the battle against a scourge that costs resort taxpayers £320,000 a year.

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What is fly-tipping?

John Blackledge, director of environment services at the council, said the authority targets "all types of fly-tipping," from disposable bags to industrial-scale dumping.

He said: "Most of the reported incidents of fly-tipping in Blackpool is household waste or bulky items abandoned in back streets which have not been disposed of correctly.

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"More serious offences are pursued and a mixture of prosecution or fixed penalty notices are the most likely outcome."

How to report fly-tipping

Defra's figures reveal that two dead animals were illegally dumped last year, while there were 209 'white goods' appliances, like fridges and freezers, fly-tipped.

There were six incidents involving the cancer-causing asbestos, and 13 instances involving tyres.

Bin bags containing household rubbish were dumped 391 times, and electrical items were fly-tipped 51 times.

How much does it cost to tackle fly-tipping?

Mr Blackledge said residents have a duty to check the details of anybody claiming to be a legitimate waste collection company by asking to see a 'duty of care waste transfer note' - and for a receipt.

The authority has the power to fine those whose waste ends up being dumped by a cowboy trader, though it didn't issue any last year.

From January to June, there were 26 reports of fly-tipping in Dickson Road, which stretches from Gynn Square in North Shore to Talbot Road in the town centre, while there were a further 25 reports in Francis Street, which runs behind Dickson Road.

Coun Ivan Taylor lives in Devonshire Road, the third worst street for fly-tipping. He said the problem is worse on terraced streets with back alleys, and said the issue is "very much on everybody's agenda".

He said: "We are working hard through a combination of moving the rubbish and acting against offenders. We will never fully fix it, but we are working hard to significantly improve it, and that's what the people who live in these areas want."

The council offers a bulky waste collection service, which costs £19.50 for up to three items and £6.50 for each additional item.

When asked whether making the service free would eliminate the need for people to dump, Coun Taylor said: "It would be nice if we could provide a free service for a lot of things, but the reality of local government these days is we are in a difficult position and we have to use the money we have got the best we can."

The penalty for fly-tipping in Blackpool has been fixed at the maximum allowed by law - £400 or £250 if paid within seven days.

Coun Gillian Campbell, the council's deputy leader, described fly-tipping as "one of my biggest bugbears" and said: "I would never do it myself and my kids would never do it, and that's why I was so keen to put the fines up."

Coun Tony Williams, the opposition leader at the town hall, has called on the council to extend the opening hours at the tip in Bristol Avenue, Bispham, and to review its charges.

The recycling centre opens from 10am until 3.45pm from Friday to Wednesday, and charges £12.50 for a permit that allows residents to dispose of 75kg of hardcore, rubble, soil, and plasterboard once a month for a year.

Waste that does not require a permit includes appliances, wood, batteries and fluorescent tubes, glass, clothes, scrap metal, and hard plastics.

But a permit is needed to use a "commercial-type vehicle", a move brought in to stop people using the tip for commercial reasons.

The council also has a mobile van - dubbed "Rover" - which tours the area collecting bulky items.

Nationally, fly-tipping on public land shots up by eight per cent last year, with English councils forced to deal with more than one million reports.

But the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents around 30,000 rural firms, farmers, and landowners in England and Wales, said the figures don’t reflect the true scale of the crime as they don’t include reports of fly-tipping on private land.

Its director general Sarah Hendry said: “These statistics do not fully reflect the reality of the situation. They also don’t show the huge emotional and financial cost of this crime.

“Our members are all too tired of not only cleaning up other people’s rubbish but paying for the privilege of doing so. It costs on average £1,000 to clean up each incident.

“With many rural businesses suffering multiple incidents, it can quickly affect the bottom line dramatically.”

More than a third of all fly-tipping incidents in 2018/19 were equivalent in size to a small van load.

‘Tipper lorry load’ sized incidents are the most expensive to clean up, with just three per cent of incidents costing councils £12.9 million to deal with.

Across all local authorities in England, 76,000 fixed penalty notice fines were issued, which only totalled just over £1 million.

Ms Hendry added: “We need a joined up approach to the issue. The introduction of fees at many rubbish tips and recycling centres has meant we’re now seeing the rise of organised criminal fly-tipping.

“It is repeated and growing in scale and it is vital that rural police forces recognise the changing nature of this crime and respond accordingly.

“Finally, we need to see some changes to the law and ensure that landowners are no longer legally liable when waste is fly-tipped on their land. This needs to be coupled with financial and logistical support to help victims clean up waste which has nothing to do with them.”

Last year in Blackpool, there were 3,568 total incidents reported to the council. Of those, 623 were on a road, one was on a footpath or bridleway, 2,766 were in back alleys, 43 were on council land, 54 were on residential land, and one was on commercial or industrial land.

The council opened 1,411 investigations and sent 442 warning letters. It issued 26 statutory notices, 14 fixed penalty notices specifically for fly-tipping, 337 notices for littering in conjunction with fly-tipping, and 36 others.

It carried out 18 duty of care inspections, didn't complete any stop and searches, seized no vehicles, and handed out no formal cautions. But it launched nine prosecutions at a cost of £685. Eight ended in fines worth a total of £2,015.

Wyre Council took 1,391 reports and opened 1,183 investigations. It sent 11 warning letters, issued 19 statutory notices, and handed out seven fixed penalty notices specifically for fly-tipping and three for littering in conjunction with fly-tipping.

It didn't prosecute anybody, however.

A spokesman said: "Tackling the issue of fly-tipping is an extensive and time-consuming task undertaken across many departments and teams. For that reason, there is no exact figure that the council can provide," relating to the cost to the council last year.

"Wyre Council takes fly-tipping extremely seriously. We work hard with our partners on tackling the issue and informing our residents and businesses on how they can help prevent fly-tipping incidents and avoid being scammed.

"We run extensive awareness campaigns to businesses, members of the public and landowners on how they can prevent fly tipping and report any incidents to us.

"We also work hard to enforce on fly tipping to prevent further incidents in partnership with other agencies such as the Environment Agency, neighbouring local authorities, police, and the local community."

Fylde Council received 641 complaints and investigated every one of them, though it failed to send any warning letters or issue any statutory notices.

It didn't hand out any fixed penalties or prosecute anybody either.

The authority was contacted for a comment.