Government consults on new waste crime enforcement law

Central government is consulting on proposals for new regulations on the seizure of vehicles in relation to offences concerning waste.

The consultation on the draft Control of Waste (Dealing with Seized Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015, which opened today (15 December), aims to help reduce illegal waste activity, including fly-tipping, by giving enforcement authorities (including local authorities, the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales) ‘more effective tools to use in the investigation and prosecution of suspected offences’.

It forms part of government’s Red Tape Challenge, an initiative to review and remove 'unnecessary' regulation that potentially restricts business growth. It is hoped the change in law will fulfil government’s commitment to strengthen the existing powers for enforcement authorities to seize vehicles suspected of involvement in fly-tipping and waste crime, and ‘level the playing field’ by removing the tools of illegitimate businesses and making ‘responsible waste management a more attractive proposition’.

Consultation details

Government consults on new waste crime law
It is hoped the new laws could help crack down on fly-tipping

According to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales are currently aware of 662 operational illegal waste management sites.

Indeed in 2013/14, local authorities reported 852,000 incidents of fly-tipping in England, costing taxpayers an estimated £45.2 million to clear. However, once the clearance costs to private landowners and the enforcement costs associated with investigating and prosecuting offenders were included, the real costs were ‘significantly higher’.

Despite this, it is thought that even once sites are identified and prosecution is taken, illegal waste activity may continue.

As such, government is seeking to change the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 to enable enforcement authorities to seize vehicles for a wider range of suspected offences, if they have reasonable grounds to believe or suspect that an offence has been committed. The offences include:

  • transporting controlled waste without appropriate registration;
  • unauthorised or harmful depositing, treatment or disposal, etc. of waste;
  • breaches in duty of care, as respects waste; and
  • handling or storing waste without an environmental permit.

Defra is also looking to remove the requirement for the enforcement authority to obtain a warrant from a magistrate prior to seizing a vehicle, if it is suspected (on ‘reasonable grounds’) to have been used in the commission of the above offences. Enforcement authorities will also be able to store vehicle for up to 38 days, 10 days more than currently.

Although Defra notes that the primary focus of these powers is not householders or ‘the carrying by householders of their own waste to legitimate disposal sites’, the law could be used to search and seize the vehicle of a householder if it is suspected of being used in fly-tipping.

Amendments could save English authorities £4.2 million

It is hoped that the new powers will not only reduce ‘unnecessary bureaucracy for frontline enforcement authority staff’, but also allow enforcement authorities to ‘carry out more effective enforcement of waste controls and continue to contribute to a reduction in illegal waste activity’.

Defra has also identified that the amendments could reduce the number of fly-tipping incidents by between two and five per cent, which will mean ‘a reduction in clean-up and enforcement costs to enforcement authorities’. Indeed, it suggests that it would result in a saving to local authorities in England of around £4.2 million over five years.

Further to this, the removal of the need for a magistrates’ warrant could reportedly save local authorities, the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales £496.70 for each vehicle seizure and four hours of time (a reduction of 31 per cent in both costs and time from current administrative levels).

Stakeholders are now being asked to submit their thoughts on the proposed amendments and outline whether the procedure is clear, identify any benefits of the proposals, submit any estimations on costs to business and enforcement authorities, and whether there is any other aspect that needs addressing in the regulations.

The deadline for responses is 3 February 2015.

Find out more about the draft Control of Waste (Dealing with Seized Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015.

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