By David Dennis 

Fly-tipping is the disposal of specific types of unwanted rubbish, called ‘controlled waste’, by illegal means. This includes garden and household waste, domestic items such as fridges and mattresses, and commercial waste such as builders’ rubble, clinical waste and tyres. 

‘Fly’ in this sense means ‘casual disposal’, but there is nothing casual about fly-tipping in East Sussex. It is planned by criminals, and each dump attracts more dumpers. However, the task of ensuring that rubbish ends up in legal dumps has been made more difficult by government cuts and the reduction of legal tipping sites. There is a see-saw battle between money and criminals. There are a number of factors driving this environmentally damaging behaviour.

Restrictions on Legal Disposal
East Sussex County Council explains that, from 1st October 2018, it will charge for the legal disposal of soil, hardcore, plasterboard, bonded asbestos and tyres. Reductions in Government funding have meant that it has had to cut £17m from its budget this year, affecting council services throughout the county including the household waste recycling sites. 

Available Sites for Legal Disposal
There are only two legal tips in the area – Mountfield and Hastings (Freshfields, Bexhill Road). Further afield, there are sites at Eastbourne and Lewes but the Forest Row and Wadhurst household waste recycling sites have closed on a permanent basis. Opening hours at Lewes and Mountfield recycling sites have reduced to 9am to 4pm  every day.

Recent Criminal Activity
Even before these restrictions came into force, a systematic campaign of damage to the local environment by fly-tippers produced some alarming events. On the Bexhill to Hastings bypass, the padlocks on the maintenance access gates were cut away with bolt cutters at night, and wire fence strands severed one by one with wire cutter pliers. The Greenway in Combe Valley Countryside Park has been piled with all sorts of rubbish. The bypass fencing has been used to hide bags of waste. At empty 14th Century List II Adam’s Farm, near Crowhurst, the security barriers have been removed, with the result that cars and vans have tipped washing machines, car parts, bags of kitchen waste and a bath. This site is ‘guarded’ by a totally inadequate system of almost inaudible alarms. Recently, hardcore has been dumped inside the Combe Valley Park boundary.

These are crimes, and the people who commit them are criminals. Detecting them in the act is, however, a resource-intensive nightmare for overstretched police, and so the entire responsibility is on the public to report and on local councils to act. Apart from being present at the seizing of a vehicle used in fly-tipping, the police won’t deal with the matter any more. It is therefore inevitable that matters will get worse.

Law and Effect
The complex legislation on fly-tipping is specified in the Environmental Protection Act 1990, as amended by the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005. It covers any size of material from one black bag of rubbish up to thousands of tons of dumping. Depending on the type of material dumped and its fly-tipped location, the dumping can pollute water and kill humans and wildlife. Local and county councils may only remove fly-tipped rubbish if it is provably located within their civil jurisdiction. If it is not clear to whom the land belongs, then the rubbish can sit for years while council legal eagles argue about ownership.

Penalties for fly tipping – an overview
The Environment Agency has the power to seize and dispose of vehicles used for fly-tipping. Local authorities can stop, search and seize vehicles if they are suspected of being used for fly-tipping (this must be done in the presence of a police officer). Vehicles which have been used for fly-tipping can also be forfeited to cover the local authority’s costs of investigation, enforcement and cleaning-up of any pollution caused.

What to do about fly-tipped waste if you discover fly-tipped waste, do not: 
• Touch the waste – it may contain syringes, broken glass, asbestos, toxic chemicals or other hazardous substances;
• Disturb the site – there may be evidence that could help identify the fly-tippers and lead to their prosecution. The police ask you to leave it in situ: if you are concerned that it may get spread further, blow away etc., then photograph it where it is.

•Visually try to work out what the waste consists of and how much there is; 
• Make a note of the day, date and time you saw the tipping, its exact location, what was tipped and how much and whether it is in or near water;
•Take details (name and address) of any witnesses. 

If you see someone fly-tipping
• Do not approach them: 
• Make a note of how many people are involved and what they look like: 
• Make a note of the details of any vehicles involved including make, colour and registration number if possible,
• Report it to your local council and/or the Environment Agency, or visit where you can pinpoint your location and update photos of the fly-tip, which are then forwarded to the local authority responsible.

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