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Teddy bears, food packaging and family photos: The huge illegal dump in Shropshire

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It is fly-tipping in Shropshire on a scale that is hardly believable.

This is land owned by Network Rail in Telford, a disused railway line that has become an unofficial dumping ground.

Teddy bears, food packaging and even family photos cover the pathways off the A4169, near Horsehay.

The rubbish continues as far as the eye can see, a mountain that would have taken dozens of lorry loads to fill.

The dump off the A4169

Today police and the Environmental Agency said it is investigating to find out where the mountain of trash has come from so that they can find those responsible. That means searching through the rubbish for clues, including addresses on discarded bills.

The track is near to a signal box run by Telford's Steam Railway, although the line itself is maintained by National Rail.

The dump off the A4169

Simon Masters, a spokesman for the company, said flytipping causes a "great amount of misery".

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"Network Rail is supporting the various authorities investigating these incidents of fly-tipping to establish the circumstances surrounding them and who is responsible," he said.

"The investigation is currently ongoing so it would not be appropriate to comment further on these incidents.

"However, fly-tipping may appear to be a victim-less crime, but it isn't. It causes a great amount of misery to those who live nearby as well as costing the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds in clean-up costs."

Paul Hughes, chairman of the Telford Steam Railway, said it was during a routine inspection that he and his colleagues came across the mess.

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"There's not a lot of flytipping in the area, but someone's obviously just seen it as a quiet opportunity and have gone for it.

"It has to be a commercial activity. This isn't someone dumping a bit of rubbish or just clearing their garage out – there's tons and tons of it.

"When we found it, I had a quick look through and it must have been dropped by a proper refuse vehicle. It was the middle of winter and it stunk – there was literally steam coming off it."

Shropshire has some beautiful country lanes. With sofa beds dumped in them. Or other dumped items which somebody, somewhere, can't be bothered to dispose of properly.

You can see some of the latest examples of this rural blight in pictures we carry today.

A disused railway line at Horsehay in Telford is taking on the appearance of a council rubbish tip. What would otherwise be a pleasant area of paths among trees is being destroyed by a mountain of trash. The land is owned by Network Rail, which is the immediate victim of this anti-social behaviour.

Paul Hughes, chairman of the Telford Steam Railway attraction not far away, who came across the mess during a routine inspection with his colleagues, says the dumping is on such a scale that it has to be a commercial activity, and he thinks it must have been dropped by a proper refuse vehicle.

If he is right, it elevates this dumping up the scale of seriousness. It is not a lazy slob or two, which would be bad enough, but potentially corporate crime on an industrial scale.

There is a double cost. The first is that it ruins the countryside. The second is the cost of clearing it all up, which ultimately falls back on the public.

So what is to be done? Making an appeal to the better nature of the culprits will probably not work. If they do not care what anybody thinks about what they do, they are not going to care about appeals to them to stop what they are doing.

What they do care about is exposure to public contempt and being hit in the pocket hard, as presumably a lot of the motivation in dumping the stuff in the first place was it was a cheaper and easier option.

The anger and condemnation directed towards those responsible has to be backed up by a serious attempt to detect them and bring them to book. As what they are doing takes place in areas which are quiet, and so there are not likely to be witnesses, the difficulty in catching the dumpers is apparent.

But surely there must be some people who have their suspicions, and the dumped material is itself evidence which may give the culprits away in some cases.

It is a chronic problem but a few cases of bringing people to court in high-profile prosecutions might make some offenders think that responsible disposal is the best option after all.

Paul said that it was disgusting that the cost of the clean-up would now have to be picked up by Network Rail. If the Telford Steam Railway had acquired the track as they plan to, it could have easily been them footing the bill.

"This is a completely different scale to anything you usually see," he said.

"Network Rail will end up footing the bill for that, but it could have been us. We're trying to negotiate taking over that line, and it could have been us at the charity having to pay to tidy it up. This isn't a victimless crime.

"It would have been a significant amount of the charity's funds to clear it through as well."

While the flytipping won't cause any problems for the Steam Railway's plans to expand the line down to Doseley, the volunteers have been told to stay away from the area for the time being.

Instead their focus will remain on next year's Polar Express event, a follow-up to the hugely successful Christmas show they held for the first time in 2016.

Paul said: "We're very deep into planning for this year's Polar Express. Tickets will go on sale very shortly."

There have been a number of large incidents of flytipping over the last few months, including an eight-tonne pile of rubble on Back Lane, near Newport.

In the early hours of the morning, a car crashed into the industrial mess, but was luckily unhurt.

Earlier this year, figures revealed that Shropshire's two main councils had not issued any fines for fly-tipping since they were given new powers for "on the spot" penalties.

Shropshire Council and Telford & Wrekin Council represent more than half the English local authorities who responded to a Freedom of Information request that had not used the powers which allow them to issue fixed penalty notices for smaller cases of fly-tipping.

Shropshire Council said many individuals have received written warnings for various environmental crimes when witnessed by council officers and that fixed penalty notices would only be issued after further investigation.

Telford & Wrekin Council said it had issued scores of fines for littering and dog fouling over the past year and would look to make use of the new legislation for fly-tipping over the coming months.

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