New legal powers to seize and crush vehicles used for fly-tipping in Sunderland could soon be put to the test.
The powers came in last April and allow Sunderland City Council to seize vehicles used in waste transport or deposit offences to help tackle environmental crime.
Environmental Services Manager on the council, Nicky Rowland, revealed investigations are ongoing into several suspect vehicles.
“We have eight vehicles at the moment that we’re looking at potentially seizing,” she told the Economic Prosperity Scrutiny Committee.
“One of the problems we have is that the vehicles are cloned and we know that the registration number isn’t correct so the police are now working with us to try and get these vehicles identified and we will be seizing them and hopefully scrapping them.
“The procedure is that we seize a vehicle and the owner has to prove complete legitimacy for the vehicle and all its contents in 15 days and if they can’t, then the vehicle is disposed of.”
The Control of Waste Dealing With Seized Property (England and Wales) Regulations 2015 outlines several situations where vehicles can be seized.
This includes transporting waste without a licence, unauthorised dumping, failing to ensure transfer of waste to an ‘authorised person’ and failure to provide waste information forms when requested.
It comes as the Echo continues its Clean Streets campaign, launched to encourage more pride in our city and a put a spotlight on cleaning up Sunderland’s streets and open spaces.
Ms Rowland added while the powers came in several months ago, staffing limitations meant the authority weren’t able to use the powers until now.
If a vehicle is seized as part of an investigation it can be sold or destroyed.
Since April 2017, Sunderland City Council has also adopted a new environmental policy in response to councillors calling for a tougher stance against litter bugs.
As a result, enforcement results have rocketed with a mixture of education notices, fines and prosecutions for waste offences across Sunderland.
Since April 2017, around 61 fixed penalty notices were also issued for fly-tipping offences and 11 successful prosecutions.
“Since the new policy came out our results are fantastic and I’m tremendously proud of the very small team that has produced this amount of work,” Ms Rowland said.
“We have undertaken 8,985 individual investigations (and) for a team which was up until very recently a team of three, it’s absolutely phenomenal work.”
This compares to 4,141 investigations were carried out and 2,076 warnings issued between 2014-2017.
While the council now has an operational team of ten staff, Ms Rowland said future goals include being more “intelligence-led” and proactive to deal with offenders.
She added: “We need to look at targeting events and people who come into the area, we’re proud of Sunderland and we’re prepared to penalise anyone who is not respecting our environment as much as we would.”
Between April and December in 2018, nearly 7,000 complaints were also lodged with the council around ‘dumping of waste’.
The worst areas for complaints were based in the city centre including Millfield, Hendon, Pallion and Barnes.
In future, illegal waste collected by council will be weighed to calculate the ‘cost of fly-tipping’ to the authority.
Environmental crime figures since April 2017
Community protection warnings: 52
Community protection notices: 6
Trade waste notices: 32
Household waste notices: 1,240
Duty of care inspections (businesses and waste transporters) 24
Sucessful prosecutions: 11
Fixed penalty notices / fines since April 2017
Fly-tipping offences: 61
Charges to householders to pay clearance charges 78
Duty of care offences: 26
Transportation of waste: 14
Trade waste: 2
Dog fouling: 3
Breach of Public Space Protection Order: 3
Total number of complaints relating to illegal deposit of waste April 2018 to December 2018
Shiney Row 259
Washington North 237
Washington East 221
St Peters 215
Copt Hill 203
Washington West 167
St Michael’s 150
St Anne’s 138
Washington South 120
Washington Central 110
St Chad’s 85
Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service