Somerset

Thousands escape fly-tipping charges in Somerset

Despite more than 6,200 incidents of fly-tipping being reported to councils across Somerset, only four people were prosecuted in a 12-month period.

Phil Jones, of South Somerset District Council, said people were reluctant to appear in court as witnesses to fly-tipping crimes.

The dumping happened between July 2009 and July 2010, when recycling was free.

With four of the county's recycling centres now charging, there are fears fly-tipping could increase.

Centres at Coleford, Middlezoy and Dulverton are charging £2 and Crewkerne is charging £1.20 a visit.

Resident Peter Knibbs from Norton St Philip, near Frome, said the fly-tipping in his area was "truly diabolical".

Mr Knibbs described the items dumped near him as "truly shocking", consisting of "machinery, kids' toys, hypodermic needles [and] building materials".

'Organised criminals'

Angus Evers, a partner at the international law firm S J Berwin, said fly-tippers were very good at covering their tracks.

He said: "They will often go to great lengths to avoid being caught by dumping their waste in the middle of the night, they'll do it in remote areas."

The incidents have been reported to Somerset's five district councils, North Somerset Council and Bath and North East Somerset Council.

Mr Evers, who also heads a waste group at the UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA), said: "The Environmental Agency and local authorities don't really have proper powers to police fly-tipping.

"[There is] evidence that gangs of organised criminals are getting involved with fly-tipping, there is now fairly big money in it.

"The reason being that rates of land-fill tax are rising fairly steeply," he added.

Nick Garnett, enforcement officer for Sedgemoor District Council, said that rubbish was being dumped before the introduction of recycling charges.

He said: "Even when we had kerbside collections we still had people who prefer to take their household waste and dump it... than leave it out for us to collect when it's free."

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