Every 35 seconds, rubbish is dumped illegally in England. In Halton a record number of fly-tipping incidents has placed the borough at the top of the league of shame in the North West. Following the release of a national report into the problem, CLAIRE LANE looks at what the council has to contend with in Runcorn and Widnes.
DUMPED rubbish is costing taxpayers in Halton an 'astronomical' amount of money according to waste disposal experts, who plan to introduce fixed penalty notices into the borough.
Although Halton Borough Council is refusing to disclose official figures for the average clean-up bill in Run-corn and Widnes until the end of the month - it has revealed a staggering 1,647 fly-tipping incidents took place between April 2004 and January this year.
It is clear to waste disposal managers that something needs to be done, and the main hotspots to be turned into waste dumping grounds include Appleton, the West Bank, Tanhouse Lane, Runcorn's Astmoor industrial estate, Murdishaw beauty-spots and country lanes in Daresbury.
The battle to clean up anything from fridges and sofas to household waste in secluded alleyways is spoiling the environment and costing the local authority up to £100 every minute to clean up.
The illegal dumping of rubbish takes place somewhere in England every 35 seconds according to fresh figures.
The added problem of cleaning up after illegal flytipping has also cost local authorities across the North West nearly £1.9m in just six months, which works out a staggering £7 a minute.
The depiction of the North West as an unsightly dumping ground has emerged from data compiled by Flycapture, which is a national fly-tipping database set up by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and the Local Government Association (LGA).
However in Halton, the flytipping problem is steadily improving through the introduction of alley gate schemes and it is now hoped that fixed penalty notices - which have already been introduced in Liverpool last year - will go further to alleviate the problem.
The Government strategy is being considered for offences including litter, fly-tip-ping, dog fouling, graffiti, vehicle litter and vehicle emissions and could take effect after it comes before the council this summer.
Brian Leacy, the neighbourhood cleansing manager at Halton council, said:
'To put it into perspective, a wagon load of soil would cost between £400 and £500 and overall it is an astronomical amount.
'It's hard to say exactly how much at the moment but it is likely to have run into thousands of pounds over the past six months.
'But the full picture from data compiled by the Flycapture report will emerge when we release the figures at the end of March.'
Another method currently being used in Runcorn and Widnes to get rid of waste grounds has already been criticised by some residents as 'Draconian'.
It involves enforcement officers picking through household waste to find names and addresses of the waste culprits, before taking them to court.
Mr Leacy said: 'We had someone who complained when we traced her rubbish back to her house which had been du-mped locally.
'It turns out she had paid a company to remove it and they had been the ones responsible for disposing of it unlawfully.
'So sometimes it can be difficult to trace.
'We would appeal to everybody including businesses to make use of a black bag and help us out.
'Some businesses are more active than others,' said Mr Leacy.