FEATURE: How do you solve problem of fly-tipping?

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It was last September when Ray and Mary French set out from their home near Woodhall Spa and drove to the hills above the village of Goulceby, hoping to see a red kite.

They didn’t see the kite.

They did see three fridges, half-a-cooker, two sofas, some old carpet, five tyres and a couple of broken toilets.

They were some of the bigger items.

In all, the couple counted four separate incidents of people dumping rubbish in the heart of the countryside.

Fly-tipping is one of the scourges of modern society.

After a reported incident on the outskirts of Horncastle last week, a local environmental group condemned the people responsible as ‘thoughtless and shameful’.

A spokesman for the group said: “Why can’t these people dispose of their rubbish the same as anyone else?

“If we all dumped our rubbish at the side of the road, it would be even worse.”

Often, the job (and cost) of clearing fly-tips lands at the door of district councils.

In East Lindsey, the figures speak for themselves.

The numbers of reported incidents are:

l 2014/15 (April – March) 1,620

l 2015/16 (April – March) 1,504

l 2016/17 (April – January) 1,126

According to the council, some of the most commonly fly-tipped items include tyres, vehicle parts, mattresses, televisions and stereos.

East Lindsey’s portfolio holder for Operational Services Coun Sandra Harrison, said: “Fly-tipping is an issue we take very seriously.

“East Lindsey is a beautiful rural district and no-one should be allowed to spoil that.”

There are calls - nationally and locally - for local authorities to take stronger action against offenders.

In 2013, East Lindsey prosecuted a man and removals company for fly-tipping an entire kitchen at Well near Alford.

The incident was witnessed and reported by a member of the public and the case was heard at Lincoln Crown Court where the man was fined £1,000, with £1,500 costs awarded to the district council. The company was fined £3,575.

An ELDC spokesman said: “We encourage residents to be vigilant and to report any fly-tips they witness or find.

“All fly-tips on public land reported are removed by the Neighbourhoods team and, where evidence is found as to who the culprit might be, an investigation is undertaken by our enforcement team.

“If sufficient evidence is available, the council will take action against the perpetrators, with the maximum penalty being an unlimited fine and up to five years imprisonment if convicted in a crown court.”

In times of cutbacks, district councils could well do without the financial burden of clearing up rubbish.

In 2015-16, the cost nationwide was put at £50m.

Despite the risk of prosecution - and endless advertising campaigns - many people are still prepared to take the risk.

Nationally, there are claims incidents of fly-tipping have increased by more than 26 per cent in the last five years.

However, councils are fighting back.

For example, a unique initiative has helped Boston buck the national trend in fly-tipping for the second time.

National fly-tipping figures for 2015/16 show indiscriminate rubbish dumping up by four per cent but Boston’s total for the same period was down 11 per cent.

Since 2012, fly-tipping in Boston has fallen by almost 33 per cent.

The reason? Boston has a unique fly-tipping ‘swat’ squad which prevents build-up of dumped rubbish so more rubbish is less likely to accumulate.

The innovative fly-tipping clear-up campaign, known as Operation Fly Swat, launched more than five years ago, has seen quantities of dumped rubbish tumble.

In Boston borough and South Holland in 2013/14, there were 1,487 separate fly-tip incidents and almost 179 tonnes of rubbish was collected.

That fell to 1,192 fly-tips and just short of 140 tonnes in 2014/15 and was down to 1,059 fly-tips and 89 tonnes in 2015/16.

And the unique project, which operates in conjunction with HM Prison North Sea Camp and has now been extended to cover parts of South Holland, has saved the public purse £240,000 over the past four years.

In Boston itself, the clean-it-thoroughly strategy is also working where the annual ‘Big Boston Clean-up’ is concerned.

Over the years, the volume of rubbish collected from the streets has reduced, despite the clean-up being over the same period and with a static number of volunteers.

This year’s big clean-up will take place from Monday, April 10, to Thursday, April 13.

In Horncastle, the town council has supported a recent campaign which saw local primary school pupils design a poster that will appear on litter bins.

The thinking is that the younger people learn the anti-litter message, the less will appear on our streets.

The myriad of anti-litter schemes is one answer.

Clearly, though, more needs to be done to protect England’s green and pleasant land.