FEW sights upset me more than the prospect of builders’ waste dumped in a gateway, in a wood or just on the verge as I drive home across the breathtakingly beautiful Quantock Hills.

Well, I can see the attraction: the hills are literally on the doorstep of Taunton and Bridgwater and thus highly accessible (so accessible that for some years Somerset County Council used to keep them a secret so they wouldn’t be overrun by tourists) so if the choice is between queuing and paying to dispose of a few bags of hard core at the recycling centre and nipping up onto the Quantocks to deposit them at the side of a quiet road then some people are going to take no more than a second to decide.

Sometimes we bring such problems on ourselves, though. I have recently been approached by a constituent who complained that his local recycling centre had abruptly displayed a notice announcing that it no longer accepted plasterboard for disposal.

His only option was to drive to the nearest centre which in this case involved a 17-mile round trip. How ‘green’, precisely, is that? There was, my constituent tells me, a considerable urge to find a less expensive (though even less environmentally-friendly) solution, but in the end he went for the drive.

But assuming he had resorted to the criminal activity of fly-tipping and had managed to offload his waste without being caught in the act the chances are he would have got away with it.

And the fact that so many people are now getting away with precisely this kind of thing has prompted the NFU to produce a report flagging up not merely the increase in rural crime of all sorts, from theft to hare coursing, but the fact that many police forces seem to treat offences less seriously if they are committed in the countryside.

Across the country there is no consistency in the way with which individual forces approach rural crime. Many seem to tackle urban crime far more vigorously than the matter of a farmer having machinery stolen – or a gateway blocked by half a ton of builder’s rubble.

And farmers are not the only ones to notice this discrepancy: so are the criminal elements, with the result that most of the countryside is regarded as one big, soft target where the pickings are easy and risks of detection minimal. Which, of course, is only fuelling the increase in the level of reported (though frequently not investigated) offences.

This discrepancy was noted in Avon and Somerset some years ago when resources began to be concentrated on Bristol to the detriment of those areas of the countryside such as the one I represent, where the notion of ‘local’ policing has all but disappeared and where you are as likely to encounter a Popemobile as a police car.

I’m right behind the NFU on this: the situation cannot be allowed to continue, else logic suggests the countryside will eventually become one enormous crime scene where farmers will find it impossible to farm and no private home will be safe. If that kind of prospect were facing people living in towns and cities can you imagine the outcry?