FARMERS and landowners are being urged to take extra steps to protect themselves against fly-tipping.

It comes with a warning that councils will often see a surge of incidents in January, as criminals look to act under the cover of darkness and people look to dispose of post-festive waste.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) data shows 1,419 fly-tipping incidents were reported to Warrington Borough Council in 2020-21.

This was a 69 per cent increase on the 838 discoveries made the year before, and the highest number since comparable records began in 2012-13.

Separate DEFRA figures show that Warrington residents were more wasteful than the average person across England last year, accumulating 460.8kg of household waste per person in the town compared to 420.6kg nationally.

“Fly-tipping is an unwelcome blight on our countryside and can represent far more than an inconvenience to victims of the crime,” said Rupert Wailes-Fairbairn, of rural insurance broker Lycetts which has issued the warning to farmers and landowners.

“Incidents not only pose significant environmental and human health risks, but also a legal and financial burden for farmers and landowners.

“Although local authorities will usually pay the clean-up costs of clearing waste from public land, the responsibility for removing waste from private land falls squarely at the feet of the landowners, and if they fail to do so, they can face prosecution.”

Clean-up bills per incident average around £1,000, according to the National Rural Crime Network, but large-scale incidents can cost upwards of £10,000.

In some cases, farmers can be repeatedly targeted and costs can quickly escalate, however farm businesses can insure the risk to cap costs.

“For those at risk of being targeted during these dark winter evenings, extra vigilance and a review of security measures is prudent,” Rupert added.

“Prevention is better than cure, and steps should be taken to ensure access to land and fields is restricted where possible with physical barriers.

“Gates should be locked when not in use the installation of security cameras can also act as a deterrent and help in securing successful prosecutions.”

Commenting on the fly-tipping statistics in December, a Warrington Borough Council spokesman said: “Fly-tipping is a blight to the local community and residents should not have to foot the bill to clear public areas due to the selfish acts of a minority of people who illegally dump waste.”