Steve Barclay vows to confront woodland fly-tipping

Steve Barclay
Steve Barclay said Hoads Wood has been significantly damaged by the waste [ANDY RAIN/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock ]

The environment secretary has vowed to ensure thousands of tonnes of rubbish is cleared from ancient woodland in Kent.

Steve Barclay said in a letter to Ashford MP Damian Green that the waste in Hoads Wood was “dreadful” and demanded “swift action".

Roughly 30,000 tonnes of rubbish has been left in the woodland, near Ashford, turning the area into what campaigners call a “desolate wasteland”.

Naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham praised Mr Barclay's letter but said the "mafia operation" of fly-tipping in the south of England must be addressed.

Mr Barclay has asked the Environment Agency for a “detailed and costed” plan for clearing the site, along with a time frame for the work.

In the letter, Mr Barclay said: “I agree with you that we need to be prioritising action to deal with this."

Mr Packham said it was good to see the environment secretary pledging to sort the issue.

He added: "It is, of course, a pity that the various agencies didn't stop the dumping in the first place.

"In the south of England in particular, where there is large scale illegal fly tipping of waste, it's a mafia operation, and we really need to know why these criminals aren't being apprehended."

Aerial shot showing waste in Hoads Wood, near Ashford
The waste covers about 4 acres (16,187sq/m) and is 25ft (7.6m) deep in places [PA MEDIA]

The waste includes rubble, toys and sanitary products. It has turned once-picturesque Hoads Wood into a “desolate wasteland”, according to countryside charity CPRE Kent.

Mr Green said: "You'd always like more [commitment], but I know how these things work."

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) wants to hold a meeting with police, the Environment Agency, Natural England and the local council where it will “call on them to clear up the waste and bring the perpetrators to justice”.

On Monday, Liberal Democrat peer Earl Russell called for the government to cover the clean-up costs.

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