Fly-tipping in Sussex is rocketing while less than a dozen people a year are being prosecuted.

Figures from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs show illegal dumping in the county is continuing to increase.

In West Sussex dumpings increased by a fifth last year while the number of successful prosecutions dropped from one to zero.

District councils across West Sussex spent £305,000 over the same period combating the problem - an increase of 16 per cent on the previous year's £263,000.

Michelle Nudds, the regional director of the Countryside Alliance, said: "That's a lot of taxpayers' money to be spent clearing up after fly-tippers and we need prosecutions.

"We know it's difficult to catch these people but we also need to ensure people can dump their rubbish in appropriate places.

"The cost is huge. The fly-tippers need to know they are affecting everybody."

Figures from the rest of the region reveal the soaring scale of fly-tipping, with incidents almost doubling within a year in East Sussex.

During 2005/06 local authorities investigated 3,644 cases. But in the next 12 months that number rocketed to 6,196.

As district councils enforce prosecutions, East Sussex County Council was last night unable to say how many they had caught in the act, or how much had been spent clearing up their mess.

Just four prosecutions were successfully made in 2005/06. Ken Foster, the council's senior environmental crime enforcement officer, said he didn't know of any since then and called on the public to help.

On Monday night 150 tyres were set alight, almost causing a devastaing blaze in Laughton Woods, near Ringmer.

Mr Foster said: "We've had problems with people 'rolling fly-tipping' where they've got hardcore in lorries and they empty them as they are driving.

"Then we could have had a wild fire in Laughton Woods last night if firefighters hadn't got there in time.

"It's not just dumping a fridge by the side of the road any more."

Local councils in West Sussex recorded 6,471 separate cases of fly-tipping in 2005/06, 1,243 more than the previous year and the equivalent of 18 dumpings a day.

Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert said: "These figures show the problem of fly-tipping is getting worse, not better, in West Sussex and that more needs to be done to counter this problem."

Emma Brennan, of the Keep Britain Tidy campaign, said: "Fly-tipping has a really bad effect on areas and people as well as wildlife suffer.

"It's a massive problem and its not just households but businesses as well at fault.

"Every local authority needs to take a look at the problem and find out the best way to tackle it, both through prosecutions and the services they offer."

Last month, The Argus revealed that councils were spending more than £540,000 clearing up after fly-tippers.

Nationally it is estimated that there is a new incident of fly-tipping every 12 seconds and that the cost to the public purse stands at around £72 a minute.

Unlike its neighbours, Brighton and Hove's figures have held firm over the last year, with 2,700 incidents.

The authority proosecuted successfully four cases of fly-tipping in the last financial year and issued 331 fixed penalty notices.

But campaigners said littering outside the cities was causing havoc in the countryside.

CCTV cameras have been brought in to monitor "hot spots" but they have had few successes.

Mr Herbert said: "Fly-tipping not only has a detrimental environmental impact on the South Downs and surrounding countryside but it is also placing an increasing burden on our local authorities."

A spokesman for West Sussex County Council said: "We urge anyone witnessing fly tipping to report it to their local district or borough council as soon as possible because it is dangerous, potentially harmful to residents, spoils our environment and is costly to remove.

"We would also remind people that it is their responsibility to make sure their rubbish is disposed of properly.

"If their waste is taken away and then fly-tipped it could leave them liable for prosecution and being fined up to £5,000."