NEW figures show that there have been just 16 fines handed out and no prosecutions made despite more than 1,000 reports of fly-tipping in Sedgemoor last year.

Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information Act by the Bridgwater Mercury show that a total of 1,177 reports of fly-tipping were made between April 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017.

Fly-tipping is when waste is illegally dumped on private or council-owned land in a bid to avoid paying for waste disposal at approved sites.

A spokesman for Sedgemoor District Council said: "One of the most important weapons to help fight fly-tipping and fly-tippers is information and evidence from the public.

"Without that, it is almost impossible to prosecute. Fly-tipping often in laybys, along droves, in rural field gateways and just appear.

"It is difficult it is to prevent, detect and convict fly-tippers, given that there is often little or no evidence of who dumped the stuff or eyewitnesses who can identify a vehicle or registration number."

To acquire evidence to support a prosecution, staff must pick through the dumped material and see if there is any identifying items or documents.

The Sedgemoor District Council spokesman continued: "Where there is clear evidence, action is taken. It is really important that all individuals and businesses who arrange for their waste to be picked up make sure that they are on the right side of the law and defend themselves by not paying cash, never arranging waste deals over Facebook, always getting a full receipt, asking for their waste carrier licence, and demanding a copy of the waste transfer note the waste carrier gets when stuff is lawfully disposed of.

"If they don’t do that, it is hard to defend oneself against charge of failing in one’s 'duty of care' over waste."

Here are Sedgemoor's top 8 hotspots for fly-tipping:

- Parkway area, Bridgwater

- West Street, Westfield Close, Bridgwater

- Moorland Estate, Burnham-on-Sea

- Saltlands Avenue area, Bridgwater

- Rhode Lane, Bridgwater

- Old Taunton Road, Bridgwater

- Halswell, Close Bridgwater

- Broomfield, North Petherton

However a Somerset Waste Partnership said the level of fly-tipping in Somerset was actually at its lowest for five years.

An SWP spokesman said: "With kerbside collections from every home, and a better network of recycling sites than most if not all the UK, there is no excuse for fly-tipping in Somerset, which is a blot on our beautiful landscape, a threat to people and animals, and a crime with significant penalties.

“The level of fly-tipping in Somerset fell in 2016-17 to its lowest for five years, thanks to residents and businesses taking action to defend themselves from the criminal predators who carry out much of this illegal dumping, and strong preventive action – from signage and CCTV surveillance to road closures and use of fixed penalties – by council enforcement officers."

Sedgemoor has faired well compared to Taunton Deane, where no fines or prosecutions were handed out for the 671 reports of flytipping in the same period.