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Lewisham leads fight against fly-tipping

As the country battles fly-tipping, one London borough has scooped a prestigious accolade for its fight against the practice.

National database Flycapture put local authority clearance costs at a massive £2.5 million a month, but despite this, Lewisham Council has been awarded a New Statesman New Media award for its work against environmental crime.

In winning the Modernising Government category for its use of mobile phone technology to tackle graffiti and fly-tipping, it set a precedent for other authorities to follow after environment minister Ben Bradshaw urged councils to do more to combat the practice.

Lewisham mayor Steve Bullock said: Graffiti and fly-tipping was a real problem in Lewisham and we needed to take a radical approach to beat it. Our innovation paid off. In the first year more than 15,000 enviro-crimes were dealt with.

In most cases, graffiti and fly-tips are now being cleaned up the same day as they are reported, three times quicker than before.

The initiative has been operating since February 2005 with enforcement officers, refuse drivers, town centre managers, street wardens, councillors and residents able to report offences by sending a picture to the Love Lewisham website.

After each sighting has been cleared up, the person who reported it receives a text to say it has been done.

But while Lewisham copes valiantly, other local authorities report major problems. 

Norwich City Council leader Steve Morphew said it had become an unacceptable menace in the city, with 300 cases being dealt with every month at a cost of £100,000 to tax payers. 

In Keighley, organised gangs are dumping quantities of trade waste, while in one incident; a stolen trailer was used to deposit unwanted tyres.

And there is concern in Edinburgh that the closure of one of its main waste sites for refurbishment will lead to increased fly-tipping activity.

In another worrying statistic, the number of vermin in this country has soared by 47% in the last six years. While there is now 60 million rats in the UK- one for every man, woman and child- the huge increase in rubbish being dumped illegally is being partly blamed for this.

But while many authorities experience problems, Lewisham has been rewarded for realising the potential of new media technology and having the commitment and stamina to effectively execute its ideas.

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