Flying tipping on agricultural land: the DEFRA consultation

Fly tipping on agricultural land has been identified as a real issue by the agricultural sector for some time. Its impact on rural landowners, and the applicable law, has been discussed in a previous article. Not only is fly tipping on agricultural land unsightly, landowners often find that if they do not take prompt action they can be subject to regulatory or criminal sanction in order to ensure the rubbish is cleared - often at great expense to the innocent party.

Landowners then should read the recent DEFRA consultation with interest; especially as one of its focus points is the economic cost of waste crime.

In summary, DEFRA suggest in the consultation that a broader duty of care should be imposed for fly tipping, and where a householder fails to ensure their waste is collected by an authorised waste carrier, who then dumps the waste, that householder could be subject to a fixed penalty fine.

At the moment, where a householder fails to abide by their duty of care in relation to their waste, the only option is for a regulator (normally the local authority) to take the offender to Court - there is no option to fine them instead. The introduction of the fixed penalty fine would allow for an interim step before prosecution. The suggested 'on the spot' penalty is a £200 default fine, with a minimum fine of £150 and a maximum fine of £400.

The consultation also includes other suggestions, such as encouraging Councils to allow residents to dispose of DIY waste without charge and reminding homeowners of the duties they are subject to in relation to waste, with the risk of prosecution should they fail to comply with those duties.

Sadly for those who have had to clear someone else's waste dumped on their land, there is no suggestion in the consultation that landowners would be exempted from having to pay to clear their land should it be fly tipped on. As we have previously discussed in the article linked above, rural landowners are very much at the whim of the Environment Agency or local authority in those cases, as they may decide to clear their land free of charge, although they are in practice unlikely to.

Whilst the DEFRA consultation shows that rural fly tipping is a concern, it will remain to be seen whether fixed penalty notices for house holders are introduced, and if so, whether they will have a positive effect on the blight of fly tipping on our countryside. Perhaps the best that can be hoped for from this consultation is that fewer householders engage unscrupulous waste companies, which in turn should reduce the occurrence rates of fly tipping.

Until more positive change comes to pass, landowners should take fly tipped waste on their land seriously. Failure to deal with the issue can attract substantial cost, regulatory attention and criminal penalties. If you have any questions or concerns regarding a waste related issue, please contact a member of our Business Risk and Regulation team.


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