Fly-tippers are on the retreat thanks to a determined drive to tackle the practice in South Lakeland.

Latest figures show that in 2013/14 South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) staff investigated 617 reported cases of fly-tipping in the district.

This is down 17.5% on last year’s figure of 748 reported cases, and down by more than a quarter on the 828 reported cases two years ago.

In the past 18 months, SLDC has successfully prosecuted nine fly-tippers and two more cases - one in Kendal and one in the Ulverston area - are currently ongoing.

Enforcement officers at SLDC say every case of fly tipping that is reported will be investigated and, if appropriate, action taken.

This can range from fixed penalty notices and warning letters being issued to prosecutions, potentially significant fines and even custodial sentences.

The maximum penalty for fly-tipping that can be imposed by the courts is a £50,000 fine and up to five years in prison for the most serious offences.

The illegal dumping of waste is a serious offence which can cause environmental damage and is also very costly to the taxpayer to clear up every year.

According to SLDC neighbourhood enforcement officer John Barwise, the authority’s tough stance on fly tipping and zero tolerance approach is being reflected in the falling numbers of incidents being reported.

Mr Barwise said: “The message seems to be getting through that we take a strong line on fly-tipping in South Lakeland.

“But equally we are not complacent. We are very thorough and leave no stone unturned in our investigations. We will get in there with our gloves on to search through the fly-tipped waste to find evidence to trace the person responsible.’’

In the most serious fly-tipping incident in the past few years several tonnes of asbestos and some old fridges were dumped in a quiet country lane close to a water course.

While in the most recent prosecution, a fly-tipper was hit with fines and court costs totalling nearly £900 for dumping an old mattress and the frame of a bed in Windermere.

Mr Barwise added: “We are lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the country and we want to make sure it stays that way and isn’t spoiled by the thoughtless actions of fly-tippers.’’#

Mr Barwise warned that that fly-tippers risked not only a possible prosecution but also the wider reaching consequences of a conviction, such as being left with a criminal record and even losing their employment.

South Lakeland District Councillor, Sue Sanderson, portfolio holder for environment and people, said: “It is in our council plan that we intend to look after our high quality environment and address quality of life issues.

“Tackling fly-tipping and prosecuting fly-tippers is a good, practical example of the council meeting its objectives.”

To report a fly-tipping incident call SLDC’s Customer Contact Centre on 0845 0504434 or the Environment Agency on 0800 807060, providing details of the location and a description of the waste.

If you see a vehicle nearby please do your best to get a description and the registration number, but do not put yourself at risk and do not touch the waste in case it contains hazardous or dangerous materials.

Waste should be properly disposed of through a licensed waste carrier registered with the Environment Agency.

You can check if a company is listed by contacting the Environment Agency on 08708 506506 or by visiting their website.