Fly-tipping: Just ten fines issued in Harrogate district despite almost 2,000 reported incidents
Just ten fines have been handed out for fly-tipping in the Harrogate district over the last three years despite almost 2,000 reported incidents.
And of those ten fines, only four have been paid in full by criminals caught in the act dumping mounds of waste across streets, parks and the countryside.
These are the eye-opening figures obtained by the Local Democracy Reporting Service which have revealed how fly-tippers are going largely unpunished.
The figures have also prompted calls for tougher action by Harrogate Borough Council but the authority - which is responsible for investigating dumped waste and has powers to issue £400 fines - has insisted it is standing firm and is asking the public for help to bring those responsible to the book in court.
A council spokesperson said officers will not hesitate to take strong action against those who are caught in the act but also admitted in many cases there is nothing they can do due to a lack of evidence.
The spokesperson said: “Fly-tipping is a selfish crime that blights the landscape and spoils everyone’s enjoyment of our towns and countryside.
“In order to prosecute we need to carry out thorough investigations and provide substantial evidence. This can be a challenge as not all fly-tipping contain personal or business details we can investigate.
"But we will not give up tackling fly-tippers and bringing them to justice."
Out of the 1,967 dumping incidents reported to the council over the last three years, 388 have been investigated by environmental protection officers.
These investigations have resulted in ten fixed penalty notices being issued but only four have been paid in full at a total cost of £1,600.
The issue of fly-tipping often stokes debate over whether charges at recycling centres are driving individuals and illegally-operating waste removal businesses to dump their rubbish at the roadside.
North Yorkshire County Council - which runs recycling centres in the Harrogate district - introduced charges for waste including rubble, soil and plasterboard in 2014 but said there has been little evidence to suggest these have resulted in any increase in fly-tipping levels which would warrant a rethink.
Peter Jeffreys, the county council's head of service for waste and countryside services, said: "The absence of a causal link between charging and fly-tipping suggests that the removal of charges may not reduce fly-tipping levels.
"It is important to remember that there is a large percentage of fly-tipped waste that can be disposed of for free at our Household Waste Recycling Centres."
He added: "The majority of residents and businesses take responsibility for the waste they produce. We will continue to educate, communicate and where necessary take enforcement action to protect the environment so it is safe for all to enjoy."
The Harrogate and District Green Party said in a statement that cheaper and more accessible ways of recycling could help reduce fly-tipping, as the party also questioned whether private landowners should face the "onerous burden" to remove dumped waste at their own expense.
The party said: "We need a solution that doesn't cost individuals and small businesses to recycle their waste that is easy and convenient to access, such as smaller satellite facilities.
"The council also needs to ensure that waste is responsibly recycled and can be re-used where possible, even as an opportunity for the council to recoup costs. Most importantly, waste is not dumped in other countries."
In numbers: How Harrogate Borough Council has investigated fly-tipping
2018 - 60 cases investigated on private land and 44 cases on public land, two fixed penalty notices issued (one paid in full).
2019 - 46 cases investigated on private land and 60 cases on public land, two fixed penalty notices issued (both paid in full).
2020 - 45 cases investigated/still investigating on private land and 97 cases on public land, five fixed penalty notices issued (one paid in full).
2021 - 6 cases investigated/still investigating on private land and 30 cases on public land, one fixed penalty notice issued (not paid in full).
Anyone who witnesses fly-tipping or suspects that someone is operating an unlawful waste disposal business should report it at www.harrogate.gov.uk/flytipping or by calling 01423 500600.
For more information on how to check if a waste disposal business is operating legally go to www.harrogate.gov.uk/fly-tipping/legal-responsibilities
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter