FLY-TIPPING reached a record high in Maldon last year, but no court fines were handed out.

Figures show 544 fly-tipping incidents were reported to Maldon District Council in 2020-21.

That was a 44 per cent rise on the 379 cases the year before, and the highest number since comparable records began in 2012-13.

But no fines resulting from court convictions were issued in the area last year – and none were issued in 2019-20.

The council carried out 1,061 enforcement actions in 2020-21, including five fixed penalty notices.

The Country Land and Business Association said the tippers' "disgraceful behaviour" blighted the countryside and warned that the true extent of fly-tipping is even higher than feared.

The CLA, which represents rural businesses, said the vast majority of fly-tipping is on private land, which the figures do not cover.

President Mark Tufnell said: “These figures do not tell the full story of this disgraceful behaviour which blights our beautiful countryside.

“Fly-tipping continues to wreck the lives of many of us living and working in the countryside – and significant progress needs to be made to stop it.

“It’s not just the odd bin bag but large household items, from unwanted sofas to broken washing machines, building materials and even asbestos being dumped across our countryside.”

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

Fly-tipping in the Maldon district in 2020

Despite the record number of cases, Maldon saw 8.3 fly-tipping incidents per 1,000 people last year – less than half the England average of 20.1.

Household waste accounted for 316 incidents last year, while 18 separate incidents were classed as large enough to fill a tipper lorry.

These cost the council £7,300 to clear up.

Sarah Lee, of the Countryside Alliance, said: “From quiet rural lanes and farmers’ fields to bustling town centres and residential areas, fly-tipping continues to cause misery across the country.

“Lockdown and the subsequent closure of tips only exacerbated this situation and we would urge local authorities to think very carefully about preventing access to these facilities in future.”

The Government said the first national coronavirus lockdown impacted many council recycling programmes, and changes to household purchasing may have led to increased fly-tipping.

Resources and Waste Minister Jo Churchill said: “During the pandemic, local authorities faced an unprecedented challenge to keep rubbish collections running and civic amenity sites open, and the Government worked closely with them to maintain these critical public services.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

Illegal dumping blights the countryside

“We have already given local authorities a range of powers to tackle fly-tipping and we are going further, strengthening powers to detect and prosecute waste criminals through the new Environment Act, consulting on introducing electronic waste tracking and reforming the licensing system."

Across England, a record 1.1 million incidents of rubbish dumped on highways and beauty spots were found in 2020-21, up from 980,000 the previous year.

But the number of court fines halved from 2,672 to just 1,313 – with their total value falling from £1.2million to £440,000.

Maldon District Council has been asked to comment.