FLY-TIPPING incidents across Test Valley have shot up by almost 50 per cent amid coronavirus lockdown, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

Figures obtained by the Romsey Advertiser show from March 23 to June 12 there have been 491 fly-tipping incidents in the borough - a 48.3 per cent increase from the same period last year.

From March 23 to June 12 2019, the number of fly-tipping incidents came to 331 according to Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC).

Now one community leader is calling for fly-tipping fines to be increased in a bid to deter offenders from dumping their rubbish.

READ: Thousands of fly-tipping incidents costs taxpayers more than £300,000 >>>  

However, environmental portfolio holder, cllr Alison Johnston, said TVBC is "working as hard as ever to ensure those who flout the law pay for their selfish crimes”. 

Liberal democrat councillor Alan Dowden said: "That is awful and those figures do not include the fly-tips on private land either, because they are not recorded by the council.

"The fact is if we make it difficult for people to get rid of their waste, such as when the tips were closed, you can see why people have taken advantage of the situation, which is dreadful.

"I feel when Test Valley do fine people, the fines are not high enough to deter people from doing it again. "If a lorry was caught fly-tipping the first thing that should happen is to confiscate the lorry and give out a £10,000 fine.

"I don't think too many people would wish to do it then."

Romsey Advertiser: Cllr Alan DowdenCllr Alan Dowden

Liberal democrat councillor Dorothy Baverstock said: "I am staggered fly-tipping has increased by 50 per cent.

"That is just diabolical and it proves what people have been doing while the tips have been closed.

"If ever Hampshire County Council wanted a reason to keep the tips open they have got one now."

She added: "I am horrified and part of me says some people have no respect for the countryside or for public places.

"It beggars belief what these people have tipped as well."

Romsey Advertiser: Cllr Dorothy Baverstock Cllr Dorothy Baverstock

READ: Council reveals residents can't pre-book slots for tips more than 48 hours in advance >>> 

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA), whose members include landowners, farmers and rural businesses, said the figures are "not all that surprising", due to tips across Hampshire being closed "for many weeks".

Tim Bamford, the CLA’s lead on fly-tipping, said: “It is very disappointing that fly-tipping incidents have risen in Test Valley during lockdown, though sadly not all that surprising at a time when recycling centres were closed for many weeks.

“The true figures are likely to be far higher as incidents on private land aren’t included, and many CLA members have told us of waste dumped on their land, which they have had to clear themselves at significant cost both financially and to the environment.

“The vast majority of people are responsible and law-abiding citizens, but a worrying minority show no regard for the environment and local communities by fly-tipping their waste.

"Please do not dump rubbish – it has a huge impact and is a blight on our beautiful countryside.”

Councillor Alison Johnston said: “Fly-tipping is inexcusable and there is never a reason to commit this selfish, disgusting crime.

"There is no one simple reason why the number of fly-tipping incidents increases or decreases – it could be down to a number of reasons including how it is reported, the time of year and even the weather, as well as current events. 

"We understand that it has been a very difficult few months for all of our residents and appreciate all the efforts they have made in helping to reduce their waste as much as possible."

She added: "It is of course, not inconceivable that the temporary closure of Household Waste Recycling Centres due to lockdown may have had an impact.

"If there was one cause for the rise in cases, our jobs would be much simpler in reducing this crime across the borough.

“Regardless of the statistics, what we will always do as an authority is offer advice on dealing with waste responsibly.Our teams have not stopped investigating all cases throughout lockdown, no matter the circumstances, and where we have found evidence, prosecutions will follow.

"While social distancing may have made our investigations slightly more difficult at times, we are working as hard as ever to ensure those who flout the law, pay for their selfish crimes.”