Carpets and hospital beds dumped in Wednesfield canal as repeated fly-tipping sparks anger

  • Report by Lois Swinnerton.

A spate of repeated fly-tipping along the Wyrley and Essington Canal Local Nature Reserve in Wednesfield has sparked anger amongst local residents who say it's blighting the waterway and ruining the environment.

It's prompted police officers to step up patrols along the section of the canal towpath between Wolverhampton and Wednesfield, with officers also tackling anti-social behaviour in the area.

Hospital beds, shopping trollies and traffic signs regularly pollute the canal, but a recent string of fly-tipping incidents has seen various items of household waste, such as carpets and fridges, discarded into the canal and along the towpath.

The section of the canal has been a designated local nature reserve since 2017. But now there's concern the litter is a hazard for the wildlife that call the waterway home.

Tony saw the carpet in the water while on his daily walk over the bridge. Credit: Tony Levy

It's the job of the Canal and River Trust to clear up the waste. Volunteer Leader Ellie Watton leads regular litter picks along the canal, with the helping hand of volunteers from Wolverhampton College. She says fly-tipping is a growing issue in the area and is concerned for the welfare of the wildlife.

She told ITV Central: "We have had sightings of otters along here, kingfisher, heron, and it's currently nesting season, so litter in any sort of form is harmful to wildlife, especially if they digest it. It can get tangled around their necks, it can cause injury. So it is a real shame the issues it can cause to wildlife.

"Also, if things have been in there for a long time and they start breaking down; batteries or fuels, we don't know what sort of chemicals are in there, what effect they will have on the wildlife. It can have some extreme consequences."

Fridges were dumped along the canal towpath Credit: Cllr Phillip Bateman MBE

The repeated dumping of waste has also sparked anger from residents. Tony Levy has lived in the area for 34 years. One morning while walking across the Olinthus Bridge, he spotted large sections of carpet floating in the water.

Tony explained: "I was walking down to get my daily paper and I always have a look over to see how the birds are getting on and I saw some bits of carpet underneath the water.

"When the Canal and River Trust guys pulled it out, it turned out it was a whole house full."

He added: "It spoils a community facility, it cheapens it, it's nasty, it's an eyesore and I hate looking at it."

The Canal & River Trust removed the carpet from the canal Credit: Tony Levy

A targeted crackdown across Wolverhampton has meant fly-tipping in key hotspot areas in the city has halved since last year.

Under the dedicated Shop-a-Tipper campaign, the council has significantly reduced incidents of dumped waste and issued 23 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) in last 12 months.

FPNs are set at £400 and this money will be re-invested in the council’s environmental service to support the council’s efforts to identify and prosecute fly tippers. 

Police have been stepping up patrols to deter future incidents. Credit: Tony Levy

A combination of CCTV and posters have been used in some areas to identify and penalising those fly-tipping.

But limited resources mean cameras aren't an option for the canal. Cllr Phillip Bateman, for Wednesfield North, was instrumental in the bid to make the area a local nature reserve. He says members of the public have a crucial role to play in catching the culprits.

He says: "It's a growing issue, it's like fly-tipping in most urban areas at the present moment. It seems to be on the increase and it's an extremely important issue for us to crack if we are going to continue to enjoy these quiet places and urban areas that provide a lot of respite for people with mental health issues.

"We really need the help of the public to stop this. It's down to people being able to take information, evidence what they see and get in touch with the police straight away or get in touch with the local authority."

It's not just litter threatening the wildlife. Local police officers have been stepping up patrols along the towpaths to target anti-social behaviour after reports a group of people were killing fish "inhumanely".

In a statement, Sargeant Emma Clark, from Wednesfield Neighbourhood Police, said: "We're out regularly patrolling towpaths, parks and nature reserves to keep our green spaces safe for everyone to enjoy.

"We are also working with local partner agencies around identifying and tackling potential hotspots for anti-social behaviour."

Residents are hopeful regular patrols can deter future incidents of fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour along the canal.