THE hidden costs of flytipping are damaging farmers’ livelihoods, experts have claimed.

Figures from Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) revealed that there were 48,966 reported flytipping incidents in the region between April 2016 and March 2017 – 899 more than the year before.

And cleaning up the mess cost taxpayers about £3,318,436.

The worst hit area was Gateshead, with 11,826 incidents, followed by County Durham, with 7,768 incidents, and Sunderland, with 5,891.

In neighbouring North Yorkshire, there was a total of 4,276 incidents which cost £212,985 to clean up.

However, Agricultural expert Rupert Wailes-Fairbairn, director of Lycetts’ rural division, an independent insurance broker in Newcastle, has warned that the figures are not a true reflection of the cost of flytipping across the region, saying there are often hidden costs involved.

Mr Wailes-Fairbairn said the DEFRA figures only account for flytipping incidents on council land, not private land and many farmers have been hit with the clean-up bill which, on average, costs £1,000 per incident.

He said: “Farmers are well aware of this issue and are saddened by the visual impact it has on the countryside they maintain, as well as it being a nuisance and inconvenience when trying to get on with their normal, daily jobs.

“However, I don’t think that farmers are as aware that, should they fail to deal with incidences of flytipping on their land and it leads to environmental damage, they could be held liableunder the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

“With many authorities looking at introducing charges for bulky waste and organic waste collections and charging for dumping waste at council-run tips, there is a fear that flytipping incidents on farmland will increase.”

Mr Wailes-Fairbairn said that, despite the increase in flytipping incidents, a relatively small number of farmers make claims for flytipping, as many have the kit and manpower to deal with incidents.

He also stressed the importance of protecting farmers, particularly in the case of repeat offences as many combined insurance policies cover the cost of flytipping.

“If farmers are unfortunate enough to have a flytipping ‘hotspot’ on their land, costs soon tot up and their business could be put in jeopardy,” he added.

“Farmers are not only having to fork out for clean-up costs but are having to worry about the damage it can cause to workers and their animals. Flytipping can affect every part of their livelihood.”

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