Our road networks, in particular our motorways are “blighted by rubbish. I am aware that there is legislation in place however ….. it is frankly not working“.
Mike Penning MP
Under-Secretary of State for Transport
2010 – 2012 speaking in March 2010
See his speech on video
Clean Highways mission is :
- To find out why the litter legislation is not working and advise the Government accordingly
- To encourage local authorities to issue more on-the-spot fines for littering
- To get our motorways verges cleaned up
- To act as a focal point for those interested in UK litter legislation
Duty to keep land clear of litter
Under the Environmental Protection Act S 89(1) duty bodies such as the Secretary of State for Transport (motorways) and local councils (local roads & parks etc) are required to ensure, so far as is practicable, that their land is kept free of litter and refuse.
Litter Abatement Orders
If they do not do so the citizen can apply to the Magistrates Court for a Litter Abatement Order under EPA S91 to compel them to clear their land. In 2010 I took the Secretary of State for Transport to court over the deplorably littered state southern section of the M40. The action resulted in a six fold increase in cleansing activity.
I have been involved directly or indirectly in 15 other cases. In all but two cases there was a positive outcome. However going to court is very massively time consuming and potentially very costly. This legislation is therefore not fit for purpose.
The Highways Agency and the motorways
Our motorways were described by Mike Penning MP in Parliament in March 2010 as being “blighted by rubbish“. He said that the legislation was not working. (View his excellent speech). However, in his subsequent two year tenure as Under-secretary of State for Transport with specific responsibility for the Highways Agency no steps were taken to remedy this situation.
I have concluded that the problem lies primarily with the failure of the Highways Agency to manage their contractors. No clear performance standards are set and no meaningful monitoring takes place. I have written to the new Permanent Secretary at the DfT drawing his attention to the inadequacies of the Agency’s new contract.
Andrew Gwynne MP kindly arranged for me to attend a meeting with Mike Penning’s successor Stephen Hammond MP. This took place on 3rd July. Andrew raised concerns about the poor cleaning standards in Area 10 (north west of England) in which his constituency lies. I pointed out that the Highways Agency’s monitoring procedures were defective. The Minister agreed to look into these issues. A follow-up meeting is planned for December.
The Information Tribunal have reversed a decision that the Highways Agency were entitled to refuse information requests from me on the grounds they were manifestly unreasonable. In his decision the Judge wrote that my campaign was “a decent worthwhile” one “with a serious aim and purpose which was of general benefit to the whole community“.
This verbose and equivocal document is at the heart of the litter problem. Its “last resort” response times are widely interpreted by duty bodies as the required performance standard.
Recommended reading and viewing:
My reports to government
My critique of the Manifesto Club’s attack on Councils use of contractors to levy on-the-spot litter fines
Naming and shaming the London Borough of Brent video