"Appalling" figures have revealed clearing fly-tipping in Test Valley has cost taxpayers more than £300,000 from 2012 to 2019, with more than 5,000 incidents recorded in seven years.

Clearing up fly-tipping in the borough cost taxpayers £348,244 since 2012, where a total 5,801 incidents took place until 2019, according to data from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The government figures showed the number of fly-tipping incidents in Test Valley shot up from 785 to 1,138 between 2012-13 and 2018-19 - an increase of 44.9%.

The clearance amount for illegally dumped waste from 2012-13 totalled £42,569, while in 2018-19 it was £55,024.

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This means £12,455 more was spent clearing the rubbish.

A sharp rise was recorded from 2015-16 to 2016-17, which went from £46,480 to £66,178, meaning the taxpayer footed an extra £19,698 in that time.

The number of fly-tipping incidents also spiked during this period, which saw 851 recorded in 2015-16 and 981 in 2016-17 - an increase of 15.2%.

However, from 2016-17 to 2018-19 the cost of clearing up waste dropped from £66,178 to £55,024.

This means £11,154 (-16.8%) less was spent.

Despite the decrease in costs, the number of incidents from these years increased with 981 recorded in 2016-17 compared to 1,138 in 2018-19.

Liberal Democrat councillor Dorothy Baverstock said: "That is appalling and I feel sad for the people who have to pick up other people's rubbish, because I don't think people realise exactly how much it costs private landowners to clear waste, including anyone who lives in Test Valley.

"At the moment it is difficult to get rid of rubbish, because of coronavirus, but before the virus people could have freely taken their rubbish to the tips.

"I just think people are so selfish."

Romsey Advertiser: Cllr Dorothy Baverstock Cllr Dorothy Baverstock

Ms Baverstock added Hampshire County Council (HCC) bringing in charges for soil, rubble, plasterboard and asbestos on October 1 2016 "could certainly be a reason" behind fly-tipping spiking from 2015-16 to 2016-17.

Conservative councillor Alison Johnston said: “Both financially and for the residents who have to sadly put up with this despicable behaviour, fly-tipping comes at a huge cost to our wellbeing.

"Every year we are forced to clean up someone else’s mess and it is simply not good enough.

"Those who think they are above the law believe they can leave it up to us all to foot the bill."

However, Liberal Democrat councillor Alan Dowden said the cost of clearing fly-tipping did not surprise him "at all", adding he thought "the figure would be higher", due to the number of fly-tipping cases he has seen across Test Valley.

He added: "We have to make it easier for people to dump their rubbish at the tips especially now because some people are getting frustrated with the pre-booking system, so they may take the easy option and dump their waste somewhere they shouldn't, which is dreadful."

Romsey Advertiser: Cllr Alan Dowden Cllr Alan Dowden

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The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) said it costs their members - landowners, farmers and rural businesses - on average £1,000 to clean up each incident in Test Valley.

Fly-tipping lead for the CLA, Tim Bamford, said: "Frustratingly, the fly-tipping figures collated and released by Defra only include incidents on public land, so don’t reveal the full picture of this blight on our beautiful countryside.

"The true figures are likely to be far higher as waste including tyres, white goods and asbestos are constantly dumped in farmers’ fields and gateways, at great environmental and financial cost."

When asked why the number of fly-tipping incidents have increased over the years, Test Valley Borough Council said they were "unable to highlight one specific reason".

However, they added in December 2017 they "introduced a more efficient reporting method to ensure more accurate figures are recorded".