MORE than 300 agricultural flytipping incidents were reported to North West councils last year – but a farming expert warns that this is just the “tip of the iceberg”.

Out of the 111,920 flytipping incidents in the region last year, 366 incidents were reported on agricultural land, according to the latest flytipping stats from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Of these, 43 flytipping incidents on farmland were recorded in Cumbria.

But Tony Laking, of Farmers and Mercantile Insurance Brokers, said that true scale of flytipping on North West farmland is not reflected in the figures, as the DEFRA statistics excludes the majority of private-land incidents.

Farmers who fall prey to this crime are having to shoulder the burden, responsible for meeting the cost of clearing rubbish from their land themselves – at an average cost of £1,000 per incident.

They are also liable if the dumped rubbish damages the countryside.

Mr Laking, who advises farmers in the North West, said: “Flytipping is a blight on our countryside, but dumped waste is not only visually impactful and a nuisance – it can be a source of pollution and cause harm to humans, animals and the environment.

“This year’s DEFRA figures show that it is not only everyday household waste that gets dumped by flytippers – thousands of incidents involve asbestos, clinical waste and chemical and fuel waste.

“So, farmers are not only have to fork out for clean-up costs but also have to worry about the danger it poses to themselves, their workers, their animals and their land.

“These flytippers, both thoughtless individuals and unscrupulous ‘waste businesses’, don’t care that their irresponsible actions could lead to farmers being prosecuted under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.”

Mr Laking added: “Innocent farmers have the choice of footing the clean-up bill or facing significant fines for not dealing with someone else’s mess.”

Mr Laking stressed the importance of having sufficient protection for farming businesses, particularly in the case of repeat offences. Many combined farm insurance policies cover the cost of flytipping – generally around £5,000 per incident and capped at £15,000.

“In our experience, there is a reluctant acceptance by farmers that flytipping it is part of their everyday lives, and they quietly deal with incidents, without making a claim,” he added.

“But 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.

“Incomes in the farming sector are forecast to drop this year, due largely to the volatile weather, including last summer’s drought. Flytipping only tightens this financial squeeze.”

Laking outlined a number of ways in which farmers can help protect themselves against flytippers.

“Be vigilant, communicate with neighbours and report suspicious vehicles to the authorities,” he said.

“Consult with your insurance broker to see what cover is afforded to you in the event of an incident.

“Deter would-be flytippers by ensuring that fields, particularly those which are roadside, are gated and locked where possible.

“If you fall victim to a flytipping incident, be cautious, as the waste could be hazardous. Record as much detail as possible, take photos and report the incident to your local council.

“If the problem persists, consider setting up security lights and a camera. This will help provide crucial evidence should the council decide to investigate.

“Finally, and most importantly, make sure that any rubbish dumped on your land is disposed of properly and, if required, use a reputable, registered waste company to help with disposal. By failing to remove the waste or moving it on to public land, you will leave yourself open to prosecution and could face fines of tens of thousands of pounds.”