Farms feeding sheep in field

Don’t Waste Farmers’ Time

Posted on: 17th April 2020

The BBC has recently reported some shocking figures – fly-tipping incidents have increased by at least 50% across the country. So, as the nation concentrates on the primary focus of its health and wellbeing amidst a crisis, a significant secondary problem has emerged as a consequence of the Coronavirus lock down – illegal waste disposal. 

Some farmers and landowners have always experienced this on a weekly basis, but now it looks more like a daily occurrence and despite other more pressing seasonal farming priorities, dealing with the disposal presently is fast becoming a daily emergency.

Paul Graham, Managing Director of H&H Insurance Brokers, warns of the negative and distressing impact this is having, Paul explains: “I know that many farmers have already spent precious time setting up measures to protect their land against illegal waste disposal, but fly-tipping is currently on the increase so they need to be extra vigilant.  Coronavirus, is exacerbating the problem and many are finding unscrupulous parties have dumped waste on their farmland.  Given the lock down is far from over I would not expect this to change overnight.”

Due to social distancing guidelines, Councils have been forced to close waste and recycling centres, collection services have been disrupted due to staff sickness and the knock on effect has been a surge in fly tipping incidents.

On top of the distress at finding others’ waste left on their land, farmers also need to be aware that they have a legal duty to clean up this waste. If you are affected by fly-tipping, you could then be personally penalised if you refuse to clean up the waste left on your land, including finding yourself subject to court proceedings initiated by the Environment Agency.

However, with refuse facilities closed, where is the refuse meant to go?  The cost of having the waste removed by a private company can be in the high hundreds and even thousands, depending on the amount.  If this becomes a more regular occurrence, costs can quickly escalate tenfold.

It is a fact that waste removal must be done responsibly.  In the past, this mostly meant through a Council waste disposal facility or weekly Council collection services.  However, there is a third option – by a privately owned third party – but even this can be fraught with problems.  Not everyone embarking down this route is aware that these private services must have the correct licence in place, specifically a ‘Waste Carrier Licence’ and when the refuse is collected, should be served with a ’Waste Transfer Note’.  Any company not registered with the Environment Agency, should be avoided at all costs.  In some cases, for example removal of asbestos, a specialist removal service is required due to the hazards involved.

If you are on the receiving end of illegally dumped waste, it is advisable to clear it as early as possible.  The waste could be contaminated and would be your responsibility if harm was caused to another.  If contaminated waste is removed incorrectly it could lead to action being taken by the Environment Agency.  This means that before removing any waste, it is always worth doing a risk assessment first to ensure that removal is safe and within regulations. However tempting it may be to push the waste off your land and onto the Council’s, no matter how aggrieved you are, refrain, otherwise you are fly-tipping and could be held liable for another’s crime.

If a private company removes the waste for you, it is a case of buyer beware! If they then go on to illegally dump the waste and it is traced back to you, it will be you that has to pick up the fine, which can be up to £50,000.  Many innocent parties have been on the receiving end of this fraud and know nothing until the regulators or police turn up on their doorstep with photographic evidence and threatening court action.

Paul urges farmers to review access to their land and put some simple preventative measures in place to stop fly-tippers and perhaps even working with neighbouring landowners on a wide-scale ‘Neighbourhood Watch Scheme’. This includes securing access points with fences, gates and logs and reducing visibility so fly-tippers can’t work unnoticed.  Installing CCTV along with clear warning signage can also have a positive impact.

Paul concludes: “We need to ensure that farmers and indeed councils are not left with a greater problem than we already have with a global pandemic.  The answer is obviously for fly tippers to stop but sadly this is unlikely.  As people start their spring cleaning and garden clearances ready for the summer months this is a key time of the year for farmers to experience increased illegal waste disposal on their land.  However, with less options for waste disposal, farmers and landowners will inevitably bear the brunt of this criminal activity.

“Setting up the right measures to prevent this happening on your land should be step one, but step two is also very important, that is to put in place insurance to cover you for the financial repercussions of fly-tipping along with Environmental Liability Insurance to cover yourself against potential liability claims.”

H&H Insurance Brokers is an independent insurance broker and can be 01228 406290 for all your rural insurance requirements.

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