A Shropshire-based agricultural expert is warning of the hidden cost of flytipping, after it was revealed that councils have spent more than £4 million on cleaning up the West Midlands in just 12 months.

Newly-released figures from Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) revealed that more than one million incidents of fly-tipping were dealt with by councils in England in 2016-17, costing taxpayers nationally £58m to clear up.

Every January, councils see a surge in flytipping, with rogue residents and traders dumping post-festive waste, including old Christmas trees.

On a regional level, there were 67,845 reported flytipping incidents in the West Midlands between April 2016 and March 2017 – an increase of 20 per cent on last year, costing £4,247,059.

Rob Matthews, of Shropshire-based farm insurance specialist Lycetts, warns that these figures, as high as they seem, are not a true reflection of the cost of flytipping across England.

The DEFRA figures only account for flytipping incidents on council land, not private land which includes farmers who have to remove it themselves at the cost of £1,000 per incident.

“Farmers are well aware of this issue and are saddened by the visual impact it has on the countryside they maintain, as well as it being a nuisance and inconvenience when trying to get on with their normal, daily jobs,” he said.

“However, I don’t think that farmers are as aware that, should they fail to deal with incidences of flytipping on their land and it leads to environmental damage, they could be held liable under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

“With many authorities looking at introducing charges for bulky waste and organic waste collections and charging for dumping waste at council-run tips, there is a fear that flytipping incidents on farmland will increase.”

Mr Matthews stressed the importance of having sufficient protection for farming businesses, particularly in the case of repeat offences as many combined farm insurance policies cover the cost of flytipping – generally around £5,000 per incident and capped at £15,000.

“If farmers are unfortunate enough to have a flytipping ‘hotspot’ on their land, costs soon tot up and their business could be put in jeopardy,” he added.

“Farmers are not only having to fork out for clean-up costs but are having to worry about the damage it can cause to workers and their animals. Flytipping can affect every part of their livelihood.

“Like all insurance, most of the time you may wonder what the point of having it is, however, come the day, you could be very glad the cover is in place.

“Consult with your insurance broker, to see what cover is afforded to you in the event of an incident, and check with your local council, who may have schemes to assist with the removal of waste.”