Latest figures show fly-tipping has hit a record high but councils are banding together to train drone pilots to spot illegal waste dumping sites from the skies
Drones are taking to the skies in the fight against fly-tipping.
Town halls are training drone pilots to spot illegal waste dumping sites from the air.
Latest figures show fly-tipping has hit a record high – up 16 per cent on last year to 1.1 million cases.
But some local authorities have been criticised for not doing enough to tackle the problem, with the number of fines falling by half in 2020-21 to 1,313, from 2,672 the previous year.
The drones cost around £5,000 each and another £5,000 to train staff to carry out aerial surveys.
In the latest attempt to improve its enforcement operation on fly-tipping, the spy-in-the-sky devices will be used to investigate waste dumping offences in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear.
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Illegal dumping and litter has become a major problem in the city where there were around 2,500 incidents of dumping waste between August and October.
The city council says it is taking a “more proactive approach” to the menace, with street watch cameras and now drones.
Sandra Mitchell, assistant director of community resilience, says three members of staff are being trained as pilots.
She said: “We will start to use drones which will be really really important for getting to areas that staff can’t get to in terms of fly-tipping.
“A lot of the fly-tippers are very clever and go to hidden places but our drones can go to those places as well.”
Similar schemes have already been launched in Rugby, Warwickshire, and Wigan, Greater Manchester, where a drones are being used to monitor fly tipping hotspots.
They also allow officials to inspect previously inaccessible sites and investigate environmental crimes more quickly and safely.
Allison Ogden-Newton of the Keep Britain Tidy charity said: “We welcome any innovation that helps councils track and catch the criminals who treat our beautiful country like a rubbish dump.
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“But we know that more than 90 per cent of prosecutions result in a fine of £1,000 or less so courts must use the powers they have to make the punishment fit the crime, sending a clear message that this crime doesn’t pay.”
The Government says the first national lockdown in March 2020 affected many local recycling programmes while councils have blamed court closures for cutting the number of prosecutions.
The Local Government Association said: “Councils continue to work tirelessly to counter the thousands of incidents every year.
“However, prosecution requires a high threshold of proof and, even when found guilty, the current fines given by the courts fail to act as a deterrent.
Fly-tipping currently costs local taxpayers at least £50million a year to clean up, but until the fine matches the crime, the burden will continue to fall on residents.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.