CROYDON COMMENTARY: For all the T-shirts, grandstanding and threats of dire consequences if anyone gets caught dumping rubbish in the borough, Stuart Collins, the cabinet member responsible for the state of our streets, this week all but admitted the council is powerless when it comes to prosecuting those responsible for the “Grand Canyon” of rubbish left on public parkland in Ashburton and on the Purley Way in the last fortnight.
“The problem has always been proving, to the level needed in court, that travellers were responsible,” said Councillor Collins, probably managing to prejudice any resulting case in the process.
“This particular community think they can get away with it.
“They’re quite well up on the law and they’re not stupid. They don’t leave things around that can be traced back to them.”
So don’t expect any prosecutions any time soon.
Here, Purley resident TOM VOUTE, who has a background working in waste management, outlines the fly-tipping dilemmas facing local authorities
It often starts when businesses get their rubbish disposed of on a “cash in had – no questions asked” basis. That is already unlawful and starts the sequence of events which leads to fly-tipping.
Then there’s the matter of ownership of the land where the rubbish has been tipped.
If you travel on the top deck of a bus going past the site of the Royal Mansions on London Road, demolished after the fire damage in the riots, you can see how behind the hoardings this site has become an area were illegal waste disposal is taken place. Never mind the politics; this is clearly a health hazard with a risk of soil contamination in a densely populated area of town.
This is not just a matter for the council. Who owns the site now? The site owner also has a responsibility to stop this from happening.
And then you have to prove the case against those responsible for fly-tipping, “beyond reasonable doubt”.
It can be extremely difficult to get the evidence to make a prosecution for fly-tipping. If you are lucky, you have CCTV footage, or photographs which clearly show the offending vehicle’s registration, or reliable statements from several witnesses from which the criminals can be identified in the act of committing the crime.
Without that, you have to engage in very time-consuming (and therefore expensive) forensic efforts, trying to find among the fly-tipped rubbish something which indicates the source of some of it. That might be an envelope with a name and address, or other bits of paperwork, though none of that is conclusive evidence that the named person or business did the dumping.
The collected evidence must be robust enough to stand up in court to make a conviction possible, just as for any other criminal prosecution. Because this is a serious, and criminal, matter.
There is an even bigger issue behind it all. Fly-tipping happens on a massive scale in this country. The main legislation which aims to control it was created in the mid-1990s. This legislation requires that all waste transactions and transport (except at the point of collection of domestic waste) must be documented to form an audit trail, and that waste carriers must be licensed. According to the law, amateurs and unlicensed operators, the “cowboys”, cannot collect and transport waste.
Unfortunately, this also got caught up in the political ideology of deregulation and public expenditure cost-cutting with the result that
a) nobody has a statutory duty to monitor ensure that this legislation is actually complied with, and
b) nobody, neither the Environment Agency nor local authorities nor anybody else, has been allocated the proper resources to enforce the law.
In particular, it has been left unclear whether the Environment Agency or the local authorities are responsible for the prosecution of fly-tippers. In practice, local authorities must respond to the concerns of local voters. The Environment Agency is not under any such democratic pressure.
You might argue that commonsense suggests that it ought to be the police who should have the statutory duty to investigate and prosecute these criminal offences. Fly-tipping can be part of a pattern or organised crime and when it gets seriously out of hand, it will involve highly toxic and hazardous waste.
But the outcome of successive governments’ fashion for deregulation and their refusal to face up to the true cost of combating fly-tipping and illegal waste disposal is that the matter has been dumped on under-resourced local authorities.
It is a national issue, with about a million cases reported each year, and an untold number unreported incidents. It is a much bigger issue than one just for local councils to deal with, yet without the political will at national level to deal with it effectively at source, matters will only get worse.
- Labour’s get-tough policy with fly-tippers looks a bit of a mess
- Actions will speak louder than words in Wild West Croydon
- Council condemned for “scandalous” inaction on fly tipping
- Fly-tipping more than doubled in Croydon since 2010
- Exclusive readers’ offer: a free glass of wine for diners at Albert’s Table
- Special readers’ offer: 25% off meals at PizzaExpress Purley
Coming to Croydon
- Mythical Maze stories, Crystal Palace Maze, Aug 27
- David Lean Cinema: Frank, Aug 28
- Upper Norwood Library well-being groups, Aug 30
- David Lean Cinema: The Two Faces of January, Sep 4
- David Lean Cinema: Fading Giglolo, Sep 6
- Thornton Heath Festival, Sep 7
- Stop the Incinerator Quiz Night, Sep 8
- David Lean Cinema: Camille Claudel, Sep 11
- Warlingham rugby dinner with international Richard Hill, Sep 12
- Soul Symphony Community Choir sessions, Sep 16-Dec 23
- Norwood Society Talk: War Memorials, Sep 18
- David Lean Cinema: Chef, Sep 18
- Cinema Ruskin film show, Sep 20
- Open House London weekend, Sep 20-21
- David Lean Cinema: A Night At The Cinema in 1914, Sep 22
- Activity to Work back-to-work workshops, Sep 23
- David Lean Cinema: Jimmy’s Hall, Sep 25
- Streatham Common 6M race, Sep 27
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Cinema Ruskin film show, Oct 18
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
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