A stronger framework of regulation with tougher legal penalties for offenders and improved surveillance powers for councils is needed to tackle waste dumping in the countryside, says Newcastle’s Labour MP Paul Farrelly.
Mr Farrelly said changes in the law introduced under the coalition Government had made it harder for local authorities to investigate and prosecute incidents of uncontrolled waste disposal which he said was putting people and communities at risk.
He made his comments in a letter to Local Government Minister Eric Pickles following complaints from constituents at Doddlespool, near Betley, who are angry about the number of lorries travelling past their homes on their way to a nearby development site.
Residents say their lives have been made intolerable by the noise, dust and vibration caused by dozens of lorries travelling to and from the site with rubbles used in construction works on farmland behind their homes.
Mr Farrelly has already written to three regulatory agencies – Newcastle Borough Council, Staffordshire County Council and the Environment Agency – urging them to investigate the complaints and, where possible, to undertake enforcement action.
But, he said, it had become evident that changes in the law coupled with cuts in resources was hampering all three agencies in their efforts to gather the intelligence they need to carry out enforcement.
“Both the local authorities and the Environment Agency have come under intense pressure from residents who are understandably angry and frustrated by the limited amount of enforcement that has taken place to date,” Mr Farrelly said.
“Efforts to investigate the import and export of waste are hampered by restrictions in their powers as a result of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. These reforms have reduced the ability of councillors to carry out surveillance.”
In addition, said Mr Farrelly, new legal thresholds introduced in the localism Act 2011 made the penalties for breaches of planning consent disproportionate to the potential harm that can be caused by illicit dumping.
“Efforts to undertake proper investigation are inevitably labour intensive and all those regulatory agencies that I have spoken to complain that their work is being made more difficult by spending cutbacks imposed by the government, he said.
In his letter, Mr Farrelly called on the Minister “as a minimum” to restore the statutory powers to local authorities to enable them to undertake directed surveillance and to make tougher legal penalties available to courts to ensure they provide a proper deterrent to illicit dumping.