Minister taken to court over dirty M40 slip roads
Hearing for Environmental Protection Act Section 91 Litter Abatement Order against Highways Agency costs them £12,000
Please click on any of the above photographs and use the arrows to scroll through. They were taken on 6th March 2011. To see similar photographs for August 2010 to January 2011 please click here.
To see a video taken in January 2011 please click here.
On 25th February I e-mailed the Highways Agency asking them to clean the whole area.
On the 14th March I checked again and no remedial action had been taken. I therefore sent the Secretary of State for Transport a Litter Abatement Order Warning Notice giving him 5 days notice of my intention to apply to the Magistrates Court for a Litter Abatement Order.
On 18th March the two slip roads on the London side (east) were cleaned, although some areas were missed. The two slip roads to the west were untouched. I was told that they would not be cleaned until August unless there was an opportunity to do so when the slips had to be closed for some other purpose.
On 21st March I therefore instituted proceedings against the Secretary of State for Transport under S91 of the Environmental Protection Act by lodging a formal complaint (with supporting photographs and a map) for a Litter Abatement Orders at High Wycombe Magistrates Court.
I delivered the resultant summons to The Treasury Solicitor’s Office on the 12th April. It requires Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Transport to attend High Wycombe Magistrates Court at 2.00 pm on Monday 9th May.
At the hearing I was able to refute the claim of the Secretary of State’s barrister that the verges had been adequately cleaned by providing photographs of, amongst other things, an abandoned fridge which had been in situ since before March. The case was adjourned until 2.00 pm on 8th June
In the meantime two clean -ups were carried out by the Highways’s Agency’s contractors the last one on 24th May. However, further litter rapidly accumulated. On pointing this out I was informed that no further cleaning would take place before the 8th June. In view of their continuing breach of their legal duties it was my intention to continue to press the court for a Litter Abatement Order. This would have involved a contested hearing which would, I was told, not take place until October.
On the morning of the 8th June, the day of the reconvened hearing, I received a letter from Philip Hammond’s colleague Mike Penning, the Under-secretary of State for Transport. I had been corresponding with him to arrange a meeting to discuss my report “Our Littered Motorways“. He had said he could not meet with me, and the Campaign to Protect Rural England who support my campaign, while the case was ongoing but suggested I met with senior DfT and Highways Agency officers. His letter confirmed that I could not meet with them either until the case had been resolved.
As I was not prepared to wait until October I submitted a statement to the court withdrawing my complaint for that reason and that reason alone. My claim for costs, on the grounds that the land was defaced by litter at the time of my complaint was upheld by the court.
This was not a very satisfactory outcome but many lessons have been learnt and I look forward to meeting with officials and hopefully Mr Penning, the man who has described our motorways as being “blighted by litter”.
I have learnt that the Department of Transport spent £12,034 on lawyers to defend this case.
Latest : A meeting with the Highways Agency has now been set for 27th June.