Wigan Council: 'We will take the fight to fly-tippers'

Covert “anti-terrorism technology”, body-worn cameras, drones and a beefed up enforcement team are taking the fight to fly-tippers in Wigan.
Fly-tipped waste in WiganFly-tipped waste in Wigan
Fly-tipped waste in Wigan

One of the biggest eyesores for people in Greater Manchester is the sight of old furniture and bags of rubbish dumped outside houses, along roads and even beauty spots.

Last year there were 42,366 incidents of fly-tipping in the city region – or 116 every day – compared to 38,099 in 2017/18.

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But Wigan is bucking the trend and is the only borough where the number of fly-tipping incidents has fallen year-on-year over the last five years.

Fly-tipping has been cut by a third since 2012/13, with more than £300k spent reinforcing illegal dumping hotspots across the borough.

However the local authority is still having to pay £850k in clean-up costs each year and they are determined to crack down further on the problem.

In September 2017, Wigan Council rolled out three-weekly bin collections, which many residents feared would lead to a rise in fly-tipping.

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Such concerns led to a major investment in surveillance technology including new CCTV units and "fast deployment" cameras.

The lightweight devices, which run off SIM cards and long-life batteries, can be fixed to lampposts, trees and buildings.

Paul Barton, director of environment at Wigan Council, said: “It’s anti-terrorism technology so a lot of it is very covert, and some of these cameras have infra-red and night vision.

“We’re quite camera rich, with nearly 600 CCTV cameras and a dozen fast deployment cameras.

“It’s a big old arsenal compared to other authorities.”

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Enforcement officers have also been given body worn cameras, with Wigan one of the first councils in the UK to receive accreditation to use the equipment.

Within a year drones could be deployed to tackle fly-tipping and take on survey work for the housing department, according to Mr Barton.

The overhaul of the environmental education and enforcement team, which cost £150k, also included the recruitment of new officers and the authorisation of weekend patrols.

Mr Barton said: “It’s probably the only team in my directorate where we’ve invested in more resources because we know how important it is to our residents.”

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The council has also spent £120k on physical barriers to prevent potential fly-tippers from driving to hotspots.

But while the council has the latest technology at their disposal, officers will always look to educate before enforcing.

Mr Barton said: “With fly-tipping there’s two elements – you’ve got those dumping trade waste, and residents who may have chaotic lifestyles and not managing their waste properly.

“We want to build connections and trust with the community. We won’t go in all guns blazing, we’ll knock on doors and ask how we can help.”

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In areas blighted by fly-tipping, the council has put on community events, recycling education and provided "waste amnesty" skips for people to dispose of their rubbish.

A successful waste amnesty in Leigh earned the council a community engagement award from environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy.

From these events, links have been formed with residents and councillors who are more willing to divulge fly-tipping incidents or individuals.

Dave Lyon, assistant director for environment and housing, said: “The big thing for us is having the eyes and ears of residents.

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“We’ve got cohort of groups who instantly pick up the phone and point you to an address or individual and it helps nip it in the bud.

“Ultimately it’s about keeping the environment tidy for the residents of the borough.”

Since the introduction of three-weekly bin collections, recycling levels are at 53 per cent – above the 50 per cent by 2020 national target – and the switch was seen as an important factor in tackling fly-tipping.

The council has also dropped the price of bulky waste collections from residential properties.

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For £10, the council will take up to three items per property over a 12-month period.

But Mr Lyon said: “In reality we still have a lot of work to do. The team is working extremely hard, and residents and councillors are supportive.

“The investment in the team is paying dividends but we’re not patting ourselves on the back just yet.”

Mr Barton added: “We are good, but we need to be excellent.”