FLY-TIPPING on public land in Oxford has soared by nearly 60 per cent in just six years, new figures have revealed.

The latest Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) data shows 1,653 cases of illegal dumping across the city in 2018/19 – a rise of 59 per cent from the 1,039 incidents recorded in 2012/13.

In North Oxfordshire, meanwhile, incidents more than doubled in the same period, while southern Oxfordshire and West Oxfordshire both saw incidents rise by more than 10 per cent.

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Across England, councils dealt with more than a million cases of fly-tipping in the past year – a rise of 50 per cent since 2012/13.

Andy Gunn, community wildlife officer at the Bucks, Berks and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) said: “These thoughtless acts cost us a huge amount of time and resources to rectify and can pose a real danger to the wildlife we are trying to protect.’’

Witney Gazette:

An example of Oxfordshire fly-tipping in the latest statistical period

Oxford Civic Society chairman Ian Green suggested the rise may be linked to charges for commercial waste disposal and limited availability of collection services such as fridges.

In 2012/13, Oxford City Council and the county's four district councils spent £128,911 clearing up after fly-tippers.

Although the same figure for the last year is not available, the Local Government Association estimates that fly-tipping currently costs taxpayers more than £57m a year to clear up.

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The most common place for fly-tipping to occur in Oxfordshire in the past year was main roads, with 3,028 incidents taking place.

Footpaths and bridleways were also popular places to dump rubbish – with 327 cases in the same period.

Rubbish was dumped in back alleys 104 times, while there were 548 cases on council land.

Witney Gazette:

Fly-tipping in Woodeaton Road in 2016

In terms of the size of loads dumped, DEFRA said councils had to clean up a total of 1,697 piles 'of similar size to a small van' last year.

Fly-tips the size of a transit van were recorded 660 times in the county, while there were 34 cases of rubbish of a ‘tipper lorry load size or larger’ – 28 of which were in West Oxfordshire.

In the same year, there were 54 cases of asbestos-related fly-tipping across the county, with more than half taking place in West Oxfordshire.

The problem in Oxford peaked in 2015/16, when there were 1,901 incidents recorded.

Across the rest of the county, fly-tipping peaked in the past year.

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In the accompanying notes to the official figures, DEFRA says councils had 'changed the way they capture and report fly-tips over the past years, so the changes over time should be interpreted with some care'.

Allison Ogden-Newton, chief executive of charity Keep Britain Tidy, warned that the DEFRA figures could well be an underestimate of the real scale of the problem.

She said: “A national programme to educate the public about the dangers of fly-tipping is needed now.

“We suspect the reality might be even worse as many incidents of fly-tipping are being counted as littering.

“Our research shows that many people are unaware that they are doing something illegal when they put out black bags or small items because councils are clearing them up extremely quickly and efficiently to keep our streets clean and not telling people that what they are doing is wrong.’’

Witney Gazette:

Rubbish in Ferriston in Banbury in 2016

Country Land and Business Association (CLBA) South East regional director Michael Valenzia said: “The introduction of fees at many rubbish tips and recycling centres has meant we’re now seeing the rise of organised criminal fly-tipping.

“It is vital that rural police forces recognise the changing nature of this crime and respond accordingly.

“We need changes to the law to ensure landowners are no longer legally liable when waste is fly-tipped on their land. This needs to be coupled with financial and logistical support to help victims clean up waste which has nothing to do with them.’’

The CLBA also said the figures were likely to underestimate the scale of the problem because they excluded fly-tipping on private land.

An Oxford City Council spokesperson said: “Dumped rubbish left on the highway, public or private land is a blight and can be a danger to the public.

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“We can check fly-tipping for any evidence of its origin and if we find any indication then we will use it to make further investigations and take appropriate action where possible.

“Everyone has a legal duty of care to dispose of their waste in the proper and Oxford City Council is one of the few in England that offers a free service to pick up bulky items from individual households. We urge people to use this reliable service - details are on our website at oxford.gov.uk.

“Household rubbish can also be disposed of for free at the city council’s Redbridge household waste recycling centre.’’

In Barking and Dagenham, the council posts videos of fly-tippers online in a so-called ‘wall of shame.’

A Barking and Dagenham council spokesperson said: “Every episode has led to at least one person being caught and fined.’’