THE owners of a rat-infested river bank besieged by fly-tippers have accused Bolton Council of trespassing on their land.

A long-running legal row between the council and 91-year-old Tom Taylor, whose Cardiff-based daughter Caroline Taylor, aged 60, owns the land, has stalled the clean-up operation.

The land, just off Croal Street, resembles a landfill site after mountains of putrid waste, bin bags, beer cans, old toys and furniture were dumped illegally.

Bolton Council is investigating the fly-tipping and hopes to make prosecutions — but insists Mr Taylor is responsible for clearing up the waste.

The council uses his land to access the underside of the bridge and installed a gate into a wall in Croal Street in 2005 — without informing Mr Taylor, who bought the land in 1982.

A spokesman for the council said it can use the land under section 291 of the Highways Act 1980, and that this use gives it no responsibility to clear up the waste.

Mr Taylor disputes this and claims the wording of the act — which gives councils the right to access land “on, over or under” their own property, which the bank technically is not — renders them guilty of trespass.

The council first wrote to Ms Taylor in July, 2010, and informed her of its use of the land in April 2011 .

Mr Taylor said: “Initially this was just about a bit of waste, not this rubbish that is there now.

“I want to know how many people the council has prosecuted for this.”

Despite the council’s involvement, the upkeep of the wall and the gate is the responsibility of Ms Taylor, and the family was given a key to the gate in 2012 — after they claim the council ignored several requests.

Mr Taylor said: “I don’t really understand even why that gate was necessary; that bridge has been there for about 50 years, so they must have been able to monitor its upkeep in that time.”

Both the council and Mr Taylor are confident with their legal position, making it possible that removing the build-up of waste will only be resolved in the courts.

Mr Taylor said: “I will not back down and my solicitors and I are confident that the council is guilty of trespass.

“If necessary, we will fight this through the courts.”

The council spokesman added: “Where items are flytipped on private land it is the responsibility of the land owner to clear up the waste.

"We do appreciate that this is frustrating for the people whose land it is on and we will always try to find the culprit wherever possible.

“We have met the land owner’s father and asked for arrangements to be made for removal of the waste.

"We always try to work with land owners to achieve a positive solution.

"However, if the owner doesn’t co-operate we will arrange removal and invoice them.”

Flytipping incidents can be reported to Bolton Council online or by calling 01204 336632.