Clause 43 - Clean-up costs

Part of Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 25th January 2005.

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Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Minister of State (Environment and Agri-Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 10:30 am, 25th January 2005

Oh no, I cannot do that. I have a lot of sympathy with innocent farmers in this respect, and I have such cases in my constituency. However, there are also cases, as I shall explain in a moment, that show why it is difficult to give all landowners a complete indemnity in relation to cleaning up fly-tipped waste.

If fly-tipping occurs on someone's land—as has been said, it is not only farmers but a range of landowners who suffer this problem—the important thing is, first of all, to try to track down those who did it. If we can do that, they can, under the Bill, be made to meet the costs of cleaning up the waste, as well as facing the relevant penalties for having dumped it. If the landowner is held responsible, orders can be put on them, regardless of whether they are in an urban or rural area. I say that because some people who own property in urban areas allow their back yards to be used as dumping grounds, and that is a bit of a problem in parts of my constituency. Such landowners can be made to clean up the waste, because their property is not secured and it is their responsibility. However, if it is clear that the owner or occupier is not responsible, they will not be forced to meet the clean-up costs.

The position in the Bill is the same as it is now. If waste is dumped on private land, it is the landowner's responsibility to remove it. In some cases, the local authority will take it away, but that is a decision for the authority, not a statutory requirement. Authorities sometimes do that as part of good management, and I very much welcome that, but in the end, responsibility falls to the landowner, and I have a great deal of sympathy with them in that regard.

The problem is how we deal with the issue in legislation. Sadly, some landowners do not take steps to prevent waste from being dumped. I know from my own constituency cases of a landowner who allowed construction waste to be illegally dumped on his land without planning permission, and action was taken against him under the planning laws. He had a bit of land and allowed people to dump waste on it. He took money for that, but he did not secure the land, so people were not only paying him to dump waste, but coming at night and dumping more. It would be quite wrong to pay for us to meet such clean-up costs.

In another case, a farmer had a lot of waste stored illegally on his land. The Environment Agency told him to remove it properly and legally. The next time the agency came to inspect, the waste was indeed gone, but there was a very suspicious mound in the middle of his field. On further investigation, they found that he had just buried the waste in his field, including fridges. He was fined £20,000, which is a much more effective fine.

That farmer was also the Conservative leader of the local council, as it happens, and is currently serving three months suspension by the Standards Board. It   shows that all sorts of different circumstances arise. It is very difficult to deal with that, and the Bill is trying to get that balance right.