FLY-TIPPING incidents in Somerset rose by more than 50 per cent during the first three months of lockdown.

The Somerset Waste Partnership (SWP) has published statistics comparing fly-tipping levels during the early lockdown to the same period in 2019.

The figures show a rise incidents across the county – with Mendip seeing its fly-tipping rates rise by more than 70 per cent compared to the previous year.

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The SWP said fly-tipping remained in a long-term decline across the county and there was “no evidence” its work to combat the coronavirus had directly led to this increase.

A report on fly-tipping incident was published before a meeting of the Somerset waste board on Friday (September 25).

In the first quarter of 2020/21 (i.e. April to June), there were 1,280 incidents of fly-tipping recorded across Somerset.

This represents a 55 per rise compared to the same period in 2019, when there were 824 recorded incidents.

Of the 456 additional incidents, 225 involved black bags of household rubbish, 79 comprised “other household waste” and 47 involved garden waste.

This period coincided with a rise in missed bin collections, as the day-to-day kerbside collections of both refuse and recycling were impacted by the pandemic.

The rise in fly-tipping was not consistent across the four Somerset districts – with small numbers of additional incidents being recorded in Somerset West and Taunton (87), South Somerset (78) and Sedgemoor (28).

In Mendip, by contrast, there were 263 additional fly-tips – a rise of more than 70 per cent compared to the first three months of 2019/20.

John Helps, the SWP’s performance and insight officer, said in his written report that the same period had seen a small decline in the number of fly-tips involving commercial waste or chemicals.

He said: “There is no evidence that any of our activities have contributed to any increases in fly-tipping.

“Fly-tipping continues to be a blight on the Somerset landscape and it is vitally important that we monitor whether any of the service changes we make impacts the level of this criminal activity.

“We have little control or influence over the number of fly-tips being shown, as the statutory function to manage fly-tipping events still rests with the partner district authorities.

“While we are disappointed to have seen an increase, it is broadly in line with the 10-year average level we have seen in Somerset.”

The SWP said it would continue to work with the districts, police and the NFU to crack down on fly-tipping and successfully prosecute offenders.

Mr Helps said the partnership may consider adopting a version of the ‘Let’s SCRAP’ campaign run in Hertfordshire, which led to a drop in fly-tipping of nearly 18 per cent in 2017/18.

The early period of lockdown saw all 16 of Somerset’s recycling centres closed due to safety concerns and staff shortages – making it harder for households to safely dispose of waste.

The SWP said it had no explanation for the spike in fly-tipping outside of the restrictions which the ongoing pandemic had forced upon its operations.

A spokesman said: “Beyond the difficulties all residents faced during lockdown, when safety issues closed recycling sites and put waste collections under stress, we are not aware of any specific reason for a limited change to the long-term downward trend in Somerset’s figures.”