Clinical waste, a rotting animal, and dangerous chemicals: The true picture of fly-tipping in Preston
It's not just rusty fridges and old televisions being illegally dumped on the streets of Preston - but rotting animals, clinical waste, and hazardous chemicals too.
The Post's analysis of official figures, newly released by Defra, has revealed the true scale of fly-tipping in the city - and the fact that most people get away with it.
There were a total of 2,821 reports lodged with the council last year but, out of 671 investigations, the authority was only able to send warning letters in four cases.
Just eight fixed penalty notices were issued specifically for fly-tipping, while two prosecutions were launched in the battle against a scourge sure to anger entire communities.
Neil Fairhurst, the council's deputy chief executive and director of customer services, said: "The council takes fly-tipping very seriously. It is a criminal offence and reduces our local environmental quality.
“We have two waste enforcement officers investigating reports plus 40 street scene staff removing litter, fly-tipping, graffiti and fly-posting across the city.
"The street scene function has a budget of £1.9m. Private land owners are responsible for clearing fly-tipping on their land.
“Following investigations, the waste enforcement officers can use the powers available to deal with offenders. These include warnings, fixed penalty notices and ultimately prosecution.
“Unfortunately, the lack of good quality evidence can hinder finding those responsible. We often rely on reports from the public but for there to be a successful outcome we need good quality evidence from anyone that witnesses this crime. Information on vehicle registrations, descriptions of the offenders, photographs and CCTV footage can make a significant difference when trying to identify the offender.
"The officers have to prioritise their responses based on the evidence received and the likelihood of a successful outcome.”
Defra's figures reveal that one dead animal was illegally dumped last year, while there were 21 'white goods' appliances, like fridges and freezers, fly-tipped.
There was one incident involving the cancer-causing asbestos, and three involving "chemical, drums, oil, and fuel".
Bin bags containing household waste were dumped 385 times, and electrical items were fly-topped 21 times.
The figures also reveal which sort of vehicle could have been responsible, given the size of the rubbish: Cars 822 times, small vans 1,126 times, transit vans 426 times, and tipper lorries 58 times, at a cost of £17,400.
They also reveal that the council handed out a fixed penalty for 'household duty of care' once. By law, people are still responsible if rubbish they paid somebody to take away is then dumped illegally.
Most rubbish was dumped in the city's numerous back alleys, the figures showed, with footpaths and bridleways also a hot-spot.
Coun Jono Grisdale, whose constituency covers the two streets most affected by illegal dumping, said rotting carcasses of pigs were dumped last summer in Poynster Street off Ribbleton Lane.
He said the decaying meat had been stuffed into bin bags, which were then ripped open by animals, leaving the contents strewn down the street.
Coun Grisdale, who represents the St Matthew's ward for Labour, said there was a "mishmash of reasons" for fly-tipping, from cowboy traders to a transient population, which sees people moving in and out of renting homes, leaving furniture in the road.
"But the main reason is the lack of civic pride," he said. "I'm shocked and appalled by them and I'd like to see them caught and brought to justice."
The lengthy New Hall Lane, which stretches from Brockholes Brown near the M6 to London Road in the city centre, had the most reports of fly-tipping last year at 35, figures obtained by the Post under Freedom of Information laws showed.
Dodgson Road, a small street off Skeffington Road in Ribbleton, was second with 22 reports, while Blackpool Road, which runs from Lea to Ribbleton, was third with 18.
The council previously said there was a "wide spectrum of offences which were generally referred to by the phrase fly-tipping", ranging from a single bag of rubbish left by a bin to the dumping of commercial loads in isolated places.
All clean ups are done by the Street Scene department, which has around 40 workers.
A dedicated two-man crew uses a caged tipper lorry to collect fly-tipped material, and help can be called in from three other teams who also use tipper trucks.
Waste enforcement officers sent to investigate scenes can also remove material, while small amounts of waste are often taken away in vans.
Earlier this year, Coun John Fillis, deputy leader of the Labour opposition at the county council said Tory plans to shut six of Lancashire's tips for two days a week from the start of this month - with others seeing their opening hours cut - would increase fly-tipping.
The changes were brought in as part of a move to save £734,000 with the facilities - in Longridge, Barnoldswick, Burscough, Carnforth, Clitheroe, and Haslingden - also having their hours reduced.
During the summer, the tips were open from 8am until 7pm and 8am to 5pm during the winter - which has now been changed to 9am to 5pm all year round.
Opposition councillors raised concerns about a potential increase in fly-tipping as a result of the reduced days, though a report concluded there was "no evidence" to support that claim.
Coun Fillis said: "It's recognised by the scientific community and supported by local people that we need to be recycling more.
"The Conservatives go against all this and cut the hours of household waste recycling centres. This reduces recycling and increases fly-tipping, leaving borough councils to clear it up and residents to pay the price."
Across all local authorities in England, 76,000 fixed penalty notice fines were issued, which only totalled just over £1 million.
Ms Hendry added: “We need a joined up approach to the issue. The introduction of fees at many rubbish tips and recycling centres has meant we’re now seeing the rise of organised criminal fly-tipping.
"It is repeated and growing in scale and it is vital that rural police forces recognise the changing nature of this crime and respond accordingly.
“Finally, we need to see some changes to the law and ensure that landowners are no longer legally liable when waste is fly-tipped on their land. This needs to be coupled with financial and logistical support to help victims clean up waste which has nothing to do with them.”
Last year in Preston, there were 2,821 fly-tipping reports received by the council. Of those, 196 were on a road, 499 were on footpaths or bridleways, 2,033 in back alleys, and 92 on council land.
The council opened 672 investigations and sent four warning letters. It issued 3,700 statutory notices, eight fixed penalty notices specifically for fly-tipping, 13 for littering in conjunction with fly-tipping, one for a breach of household duty of care, and nine others.
It carried out 120 duty of care inspections, no stop and searches, and seized 23 vehicles.
It didn't give out any formal cautions, but it launched two prosecutions at a cost of £661. Both ended in fines, which totalled £2,441.
Chorley Council took 897 reports and investigated 20 times. It send seven warning letters and issued two fixed penalties specifically for fly-tipping.
It prosecuted in five cases, which all ended with fines totalling £1,100.
South Ribble Council received 504 complaints, and investigated 244 of them. It sent 25 warning letters and gave out two fines for fly-tipping.
It didn't issue any cautions or launch any prosecutions.
Chorley and South Ribble councils were contacted for a comment.