BARNSLEY Council has been urged to stiffen up its licensing checks on hydroponic retailers across the borough amid claims that cannabis growers were dumping discarded drug farm equipment in secluded spots.

It’s been claimed this week that fly-tipping cases involving former cannabis-growing set-ups are on the rise across Barnsley, which has resulted in a Little Houghton Parish Council member urging the local authority to intervene.

Hydroponic shops - which supply grow tents, heat lamps and nutrients - must be held accountable for vetting people who buy items, according to parish councillor Kevin Osborne.

“In my experience there’s been a marked increase in the dumping of cannabis-growing waste and associated equipment across the Barnsley countryside,” he told the Chronicle.

“I call on Barnsley Council to make changes to their fly-tipping reporting system so the true scale of this clandestine and illegal activity can be revealed and to investigate how future licensing and regulation of hydroponic ‘grow’ shops who currently supply these materials can be introduced.

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“There’s an enormous amount of information to be had from visiting hydroponic retailers as they ought to be taking customers’ details and the council should be insisting on that.

“If you went into Argos and bought a television, they would ask for your name and address for it to be cross-checked to see if you had a TV licence. There should be no difference in this scenario.

“Cannabis growing is Barnsley’s new harvest. Production of this class B drug can lead to up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both. However, hydroponic shops freely trade across the borough, supplying the raw materials for this illegal crop.

“Drug production, and the organised crime that thrives on its supply, blights our town. Let’s have action, not words, when it comes to dealing with drugs in our community.”

According to the council, figures for reported tipping are reducing thanks to proactive work by officers and the local authority’s award-winning #EverybodyThink campaign.

But fly-tipped waste costs more than £200,000 per year to clear up - a figure they want to significantly reduce - and more than 2,500 reports were made during 2018.

Official fly-tipping statistics for the last financial year will be revealed on Thursday, but Kevin called on the council to make public the amount of cannabis-related dumping it has dealt with.

“Currently environmental fly-tipping isn’t separated into specific fields and what we want to know is just how many associated tipping incidents there’s been,” he added. “As someone who reports everything I see, I know first-hand that cannabis dumps have increased dramatically.”

Mark Giles, from the council’s Safer Neighbourhood Service, said the local authority is doing all it can to combat tippers and revealed several cases will be going before Barnsley Magistrates’ Court in the coming weeks.

“We do act on what the public tell us so we want them to give us any information which may lead to an offender’s identity being uncovered, but a witness statement is essential,” he added.

“In relation to cannabis tipping, it is something we’re aware of but it’s important people don’t search through what they find as it displaces evidence which could lead to a prosecution.

“There’s a big interest in cases in the town because there’s a common interest between residents and the council - everyone’s on the same page and wants this to stop.

“If the fly-tippers don’t stop, we will catch them and if they’re willing to do the crime they will be robustly dealt with in court.”

* Search ‘Barnsley fly-tipping’ to report an incident online on the council’s website.