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No increase in fly-tipping after waste site cut-backs

The household waste recovery centre at North Sunderland, one of five which saw its opening days reduced in 2016.
The household waste recovery centre at North Sunderland, one of five which saw its opening days reduced in 2016.

Northumberland bucked the trends as the number of fly-tipping incidents dropped in 2016-17 – the year opening times were cut at five county tips.

In October 2016, the five least-visited household waste recovery centres (HWRCs) were switched to opening four days a week rather than seven, albeit with the same hours as before.

The sites in question were Allendale, North Sunderland, Wooler, Haltwhistle and Kirkley West Thorn, near Ponteland.

These proposals, which save the county council £150,000 a year, proved controversial among the affected communities, with concerns that the changes would lead to increased fly-tipping.

But figures in a report to next week’s (Wednesday, June 27) meeting of the council’s communities and place committee show that the number of incidents in Northumberland actually dropped in 2016-17.

This is against a backdrop of fly-tipping being on the rise both nationally and in the county every year since 2012-13.

The report concedes that it is not possible to know the number of incidents which were caused by the changes, but says that if there were a direct link, an increase would be expected during that year.

‘Given the converse is true, it would suggest that at the very least, the change to the opening days at five HWRCs did not significantly affect the level of-fly tipping,’ it adds.

There was also a very slight increase in the amount of rubbish taken to the five sites in the following 12 months, which suggests that residents continued to take their waste there rather than dump it illegally.

However, following the unexplained dip in 2016-17, the upward trend continued again last year as fly-tipping incidents rose again in Northumberland.

The council’s public health team carried out 1,254 fly-tipping actions in 2017-18, with Northumberland taking enforcement action more frequently than is the case at the national level.

This resulted in nine fly-tipping prosecutions, two vehicles being seized and crushed, five formal cautions, nine fixed penalty notice fines, 28 statutory notices and 213 warning letters.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service