A day in the life of Chichester's fly-tipping investigator

Ian Grealey at the scene of a crime
Ian Grealey at the scene of a crime

We've all heard of Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes, Pink Panther and Poirot — but Chichester district is home to a very different kind of investigator.

Ian Grealey, environmental health officer for Chichester District Council, hunts for clues to track down fly-tippers and the original owners of illegal detritus.

From illegally dumped sofas, tyres, bikes and Christmas trees, Ian has seen it all. Each day, he travels up and down the district, investigating fly-tips and gathering evidence to try and catch those responsible.

Here’s a taste of some of the cases he deals with during a typical day:

"7.30am — When I arrive at the office, I check to see if any fly tips have been reported overnight and review the active cases on our system.

"8.15am — Our waste and recycling team send me a report of a fly tip in the north of the district. We aim to clear fly tips within three days. This fly tip appears to contain details which might identify the fly tipper, so I get ready to go out and investigate.

"8.30am — As I leave the office I make sure that I have evidence bags, protective gloves and a camera. Sadly, people will dump all kinds of waste including building rubble, garden waste, sofas, fridges and more, so I never know what I will find. If there’s a chance that the waste could be hazardous, I need to be prepared.

"9.30am — I locate the pile of black bags, which have been dumped in a ditch at the side of a quiet country lane. Fly tipping is a real eyesore in this beautiful area, and in this case it poses a threat to wildlife as some of the waste has leaked into the stream.

"The first thing I do is photograph the site and then I can begin opening the bags methodically and sifting through the rubbish to look for clues. Once I have all the evidence I need, my colleagues at the depot can clear the rubbish away.

"11.00am — I arrive back at the office with the evidence bag and get to work piecing all of the information together and then make enquiries that will hopefully bring me closer to catching the culprit.

"1pm — After a busy morning, I get some good news. The details found at the site have led us to the fly tipper and I can now issue them with a fixed penalty notice – success!

"2.20pm — I’m alerted of another fly tip. A local farmer has reported a van load of rubbish dumped on his land. He managed to catch the fly tipper’s vehicle registration before they sped off.

"3pm — At the site, the farmer tells me that there were two people involved and gives a brief description of them. I make a note of this and then take a look at the rubbish they left behind. From what I can see, this waste could have been dumped by a rogue waste removal company. This is a huge problem in the district. If you have waste that you need removed, always check that they are licensed by the Environment Agency to remove waste — this way you will be protecting yourself from rogue traders and the possibility of an unwanted fine.

"4.20pm — Back at the office I record all of my notes from the case. The evidence is growing and I have a good feeling that I will be able to catch the fly tippers very soon.

"It feels great to be helping to prevent crime and protecting our beautiful district at the same time."

The district council recently launched the latest phase of its 'Against Litter' campaign and was given powers in January this year to issue fixed penalty notices to offenders of at least £200 to £400 maximum.

Around £350,000 of taxpayers’ money is spent every year clearing up fly-tips in the Chichester District. Last year, the council cleared 971 fly tips – from bikes in Selsey, to tyres in Colworth; used nappies in Itchenor to asbestos in Binderton; and even bricks in Fernhurst – to name just a few examples.

For more information visit: https://www.chichester.gov.uk/flytipping