A CONCERTED drive to clean up the streets and pavements of a borough which saw the equivalent weight of 525 double decker buses fly-tipped last year has been a “mind-blowing” success, a committee has heard.

Darlington Borough Council’s communities and local services scrutiny committee heard while 65 per cent of fly-tips reported in October last year took more than five days to be cleared, two months ago the figure had dropped to just seven per cent.

Officers said the change, which followed the launch of an extra clearance team at a cost of £50,000 in June, had been achieved despite greater amounts of domestic waste being generated during lockdown.

In addition, councillors were told enforcement action was being taken against residents who continued to flout rules and nine mobile cameras, some of them covert, were being used at fly-tipping hotspots.

Anyone found to have dumped waste faced a £400 fine, the meeting heard, but some cases would be sent straight to magistrates courts.

Officers said the council’s initiatives had led to fly-tipping incidents decreasing slightly.

Councillors called for more and improved cameras, and said some fly-tipping offenders had not been identified because the images were too poor.

The meeting was told the council was also looking at places where it could run a trial to gate back lanes to see if that helped cut fly-tipping, but cabinet members warned such action could simply displace incidents.

Brinkburn and Faverdale councillor Scott Durham said the drop in time taken to clear dumped waste had been “mind-blowing”. However, the meeting was told there was uncertainty whether the extra staff could be funded after June.

The authority’s local services portfolio holder, Councillor Andy Keir, said with the extra clearances the council was trying to show people how good the environment could be and give them a pride in their neighbourhood.

After the meeting he said: “It has a cost and we will be looking at prevention, educating residents about their responsibilities. People have seen a difference and hopefully that will drive behavioural change.”

The meeting was told while there had been progress on fly-tipping, dog fouling remained a major issue for residents. Councillor Nick Wallis called for more signs to warn people of the consequences of failing to pick up after their dogs.

Councillor heard the council could add to the 800 litter and dog bins across the borough, it would impact on its ability to empty them all. Nevertheless, councillors asked officers to investigate the cost of increasing the number of bins by ten per cent.

Officers said dog fouling remained a difficult offence to prosecute and some of the fouling was caused by the 500 to 600 stray dogs that the council picked up every year.