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CALLS TO END: Fly-tipping sentences “lenient”

CALLS TO END: Fly-tipping sentences “lenient”

Fly Tipping On Dark Lane, Image: LDRS

A Somerset councillor has called for an end to “lenient” sentences for fly-tipping in a bid to clean up the countryside.

Somerset has seen a rise in fly-tipping since the first coronavirus lockdown began in March 2020, with the Mendip district seeing the sharpest increase.

As part of a new waste strategy, Mendip District Council has joined forces with other local authorities to lobby for tougher sentences for those convicted of fly-tipping.

Councillor Tom Ronan, who represents the Wells St Thomas ward, said the current system made it too difficult for offenders to be prosecuted and that sentences handed down were “lenient to say the least”.

Between March 2020 and March 2021, Mendip saw a 42 per cent rise in fly-tipping incidents – with the number of incidents involving household refuse (black bin waste) rising by more than 150 per cent.

The council is one of 158 local authorities and ten professional bodies who co-signed a letter to the Sentencing Council in early-August, calling on the body to “address the significant challenges in relation to sentences handed down” and tackle “a lack of any serious deterrent arising from the justice system”.

Mr Ronan, the council’s portfolio holder for strategic policy and climate change, made his comments at a cabinet meeting held in Shepton Mallet on Monday evening (September 6).

He said: “The fact that there were 2,000 incidents of fly-tipping in Mendip last year is a bit worrying.

“It’s really encouraging that we’ve joined this fly-tipping group and have written a letter to the Sentencing Council. Have we any indication of when we’re expecting a reply or any action from them?

“It does seem when you read these reports in the paper about people who have been caught fly-tipping – it’s so difficult to catch them and the sentence is lenient to say the least.”

The Sentencing Council responded that it would hope to hold a meeting with councillors later in September to thrash out various issues surrounding fly-tipping and waste management.

Councillor Heather Shearer, portfolio holder for neighbourhood services, said different council departments needed to work closely together to tackle this pressing issue.

She said: “The most galling thing is that it’s hard enough to get the evidence to even take somebody forward [to prosecution].

“We’re going to do our best wherever possible to get that information.

“We have desires to get fly-tipping cleared really quickly – but if you clear it too quickly, then you can’t gather the evidence in order to try to prosecute.”

The council is currently consulting on plans to pedestrianise Berkley Lane and Dark Lane in Frome in a bid to eliminate a known fly-tipping hotspot.

To take part in the consultation, visit www.mendip.gov.uk/survey by September 12. A final decision on the matter will be taken by the full council on September 27.

 

Words: Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter


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