Vans seized and thousands issued in fines to offenders caught fly-tipping in Sheffield

Fly-tipping at the gates to the old Ski Village
Fly-tipping at the gates to the old Ski Village
0
Have your say

Fly-tippers will be hit where it hurts, Sheffield Council has warned them, as it employs new powers to stamp out the scourge.

More than 40 culprits have been slapped with £300 on-the-spot fines for illegally dumping waste in the city since local authorities were granted the new enforcement tool in May last year.

Seven people have been prosecuted in the last year for fly-tipping

Seven people have been prosecuted in the last year for fly-tipping

And three vans believed to have been used for fly-tipping have so far been seized under new legislation brought in at the end of 2016.

Councillor Bryan Lodge, the council's cabinet member for environment, warned offenders they would pay the price for turning the city's streets and open spaces into eyesores - and he urged everyone to play their part in helping bring them to justice.

"Fly-tipping is a blight on the landscape and a blight on our communities. It's anti-social and there's no excuse for it," he said.

"We want people to take pride in their community and report their suspicions or any information they have about fly-tipping so we can act on that.

Bryan Lodge with two vans which have been impounded over suspected fly-tipping

Bryan Lodge with two vans which have been impounded over suspected fly-tipping

"It's good to see national legislation has been changed to give us more teeth, and we will continue to make use of those new powers."

'IF THE DEAL SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS'

As well as reporting fly-tipping so the council can clear it and pursue those responsible, Coun Lodge said people have a responsibility to ensure they do not contribute to the problem.

Even if you have not personally dumped the waste, you can be fined or prosecuted for failing to take adequate steps to ensure the company you employed would dispose of it responsibly.

The S2, S5 and S9 postcodes are the worst for fly-tipping, based on the number of fines issued

The S2, S5 and S9 postcodes are the worst for fly-tipping, based on the number of fines issued

That means asking to see its 'authority to carry waste', checking with the Environment Agency that licence is valid, and keeping a receipt with the firm's full details.

Businesses, meanwhile, must request a 'waste transfer note' from the company disposing of their rubbish, which they are required to hold onto for two years.

"Basically, if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is," said Coun Lodge.

"With Christmas coming up, we know many people will have more rubbish to dispose of. The last thing you want after Christmas is a ticket coming through for fly-tipping."

People caught fly-tipping face a fine of up to 50,000 and five years in prison

People caught fly-tipping face a fine of up to 50,000 and five years in prison

Coun Lodge urged people to use the council's waste and recycling centres, where possible, or to arrange a bulky household waste collection. Those who need help, he added, should get in touch with the council.

FLY-TIPPING HOT SPOTS REVEALED

Fixed penalty notices of up to £400 for fly-tipping offences were introduced by the Government to save councils time and money pursuing court action for low-level offences.

Between May 2016 and the end of October this year, a Freedom of Information request by The Star reveals, Sheffield Council issued 41 such fines.

Of those, 28 people coughed up the £300, reduced by £100 for paying within 10 days, and three were prosecuted, between them stumping up just under £1,150 including fines and costs.

Five cases were discontinued, one is due to go to court and four more are awaiting resolution.

Members of the public are responsible for ensuring their waste is disposed of responsibly

Members of the public are responsible for ensuring their waste is disposed of responsibly

The most offences occurred in the S2 postal district, covering areas including Heeley, Arbourthorne and Manor; S5, encompassing Firth Park, Parson Cross and Longley; and S9, including Attercliffe, Darnall and Wincobank, with seven fines issued in each.

VANS COULD BE CRUSHED

Local authorities previously had to secure a court order to seize vans but can now do so without seeking permission, provided there is a 'reasonable suspicion' those vehicles have been used for fly-tipping.

Sheffield Council has done so three times, with one of the vehicles returned after the owner paid a fine, and the others - a battered Luton van and a Transit van in reasonably good condition - still impounded as their owners face prosecution.

Should the owners be convicted, the council can apply for a forfeiture order and, depending on the state of the vehicle, either sell or crush it.

Mark Parry, the council's environmental enforcement team manager, says that even if the vehicles are eventually returned, putting them out of action for weeks is an extremely effective way of 'disrupting' fly-tipping.

While on-the-spot fines are a useful tool to punish low-level fly-tipping, the worst offenders will still end up in court, where they could be handed a £50,000 fine and up to five years in jail.

In the last year, the council has successfully prosecuted seven culprits, who were between them ordered to pay more than £7,000 including fines and costs.

PHOTOS CIRCULATED TO CATCH OFFENDERS

Offenders can prove difficult to track down if there is no evidence among the waste, like headed letters, linking them to the crime.

That's why eye-witness reports, especially from people who have recorded the vehicle's registration number or who recognise the goods that have been dumped, are so valuable.

In one case, Mr Parry explains, photos of dumped fencing were circulated to nearby householders in an attempt to find the culprit.

"Somebody contacted us with the address of the person responsible, so we went round to investigate and found they had remarkably new fencing up," he said.

SUPPORT FOR PRIVATE LANDOWNERS

The council has its own team to clear waste dumped on public land, but where private property is targeted it is the landowner's responsibility to get it removed.

Sheffield MP Angela Smith recently called on the Government to work with local authorities to allow private landowners to dispose of fly-tipped waste free of charge at council dumps.

Sheffield Council said although it investigates fly-tipping on private land, it would be unfair to make council tax payers pick up the tap for disposing of that waste, and doing so might encourage further offending.

However, it does work with private landowners to help prevent their grounds being targeted by, for example, fitting fencing, improving lighting or installing CCTV cameras.

WHERE HAVE THE MOST FLY-TIPPING FINES BEEN ISSUED in SHEFFIELD?

S1: 2

S2: 7

S5: 7

S6: 2

S7: 2

S8: 4

S9: 7

S11: 2

S12: 1

S13: 2

S20: 3

S35: 1

S36: 1

* number of fixed penalty notices issued since May 2016

ON THE ROAD WITH ENFORCEMENT TEAM

Rubber gloves, scissors and a roll of 'enviro-crime scene' tape - these are the basic tools of the trade for the council's enforcement team cracking down on fly-tipping across the city.

I headed out with them to witness life on the front line of the war on illegal dumping in Sheffield.

The enforcement officers are not tasked with clearing the waste. They have the even messier job of tracking down the trash and sifting through its contents in search of incriminating evidence.

I join them on duty in Page Hall, where the streets and alleyways are a graveyard for faulty TVs, old mattresses and broken bed bases, among other dumped goods.

This morning is a relatively quiet one on the 'envirocrime' beat, with a couple of black bags discarded beside bins, and some household junk abandoned by someone moving home proving the only unwanted discoveries.

A MESSY JOB

After clocking the bin bags, the officer first takes a photo before carefully snipping them open and looking for clues.

In this case, all she finds among the takeaway boxes, mouldy fruit and an old paddling pool is a generic school letter addressed only to the 'parent/carer', so she seals the bag using her bright yellow tape and moves on.

The tape has a dual purpose, she tells me: to show the offence has been reported and to act as a warning to the culprits that fly-tipping will not be tolerated.

"When people first saw the tape some were worried because they thought it must be radioactive waste or something," she tells me.

She then reports the location to the council's clean-up team so the mess can be removed.

WHAT DO PAGE HALL AND BROOMHILL HAVE IN COMMON?

Her beat, she explains, encompasses the S4 area, including Page Hall, and the S10 district, covering Broomhill.

While on the face of it these may seem very different areas, they pose similar challenges due to their transient populations - in the case of Broomhill, the large number of students, and in Page Hall, the sizeable immigrant population, including many from Slovakia's Roma community.

Many of them, she tells me, don't understand the rules or know how to access services.

That's why one of her major roles, beside catching those responsible, is to teach people how to dispose of their waste responsibly.

That involves knocking on doors and speaking to residents near fly-tipping hot spots, as well as delivering letters and leaflets explaining the services available.

In Page Hall, it has meant brushing up on her language skills, adding the Slovakian words for 'rubbish', 'free' and, grimly, 'rats' to her vocabulary.

A sign in Page Hall warns of the consequences of fly-tipping

A sign in Page Hall warns of the consequences of fly-tipping

Searching through dumped rubbish for clues

Searching through dumped rubbish for clues

Enviro-crime tape on the dumped rubbish

Enviro-crime tape on the dumped rubbish