Talking Point – Sevenoaks Chronicle – Sevenoaks Liberal Democrats
Andrew Michealides, March 28th 2018:
Andrew is a parish councillor in Seal
How much of a problem is fly-tipping in our region? And what needs to be done?
Fly-tipping is an unsightly mess and expensive to clear up. Rubbish dumped can also be dangerous and can block country lanes and footpaths. If fly-tipping is done on private land, the landowner has to clear up and there is usually no compensation for the costs. For hard-pressed farmers this is a constant worry.
In some areas of our district the problem is particularly pronounced. Residents in Horton Kirby and South Darenth collected over 100 signatures in a recent petition asking for a stronger response to the problem that is blighting their area.
Sevenoaks District has 50% more fly-tipping than Tonbridge and Malling, taking account of population size. We get a third more than Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone, partly because we are closer to London.
There may be severe penalties for fly-tipping, but as with most crimes certainty of detection is the serious deterrent, not theoretical punishment. In 2016/17, Sevenoaks District Council issued just five fixed penalty notices for fly tipping even though over 1,500 incidents were reported. Since 2016 only one person has been successfully prosecuted.
The nationwide epidemic of fly-tipping is another consequence of the severe squeeze on local authority funding in recent years. Cash-strapped councils introduce charges for the collection of bulky goods and can’t afford to put enough into enforcement. Central government should make sure councils have the money to do their job.
In the meantime, our own district council should focus its enforcement action on places where there is regular fly-tipping or where it causes most harm. The best evidence comes from cameras, installed where it matters. Such cameras can automatically recognise number plates and can work at night as well.
We need to recognise too that for some people in Kent the nearest rubbish tip or recycling centre is miles away. Would it save money to run more sites and cut the clean-up bills for hundreds of incidents?