Court finds area was not defaced by litter & refuse.
A Litter Abatement Warning Notice was sent to Mike Penning, Under-secretary of State for Transport with responsibility for the motorways, on 29th February 2012 giving notice of my intention to make a complaint to the Magistrates Court about the littered condition of this junction.
On 20th March it was still in a dreadful condition and I therefore delivered a formal complaint to the Magistrates Court asking them to summons the Secretary of State for Transport, Justine Greening MP, to court to defend my application for a Litter Abatement Order to compel her to clean the area. The summons was issued on 13th April.
After an initial hearing on 9th May the case was decided at High Wycombe Magistrates Court on 27th July before a District Judge.
The hearing took the whole day and included a site visit. The Judge decided that the area was not at that time defaced by litter and/or refuse and therefore she could not issue a Litter Abatement Order. This was not a surprise as the area had been transformed since the complaint was made. Although, in my view, it was still not up to the legally required standard.
What did surprise me was that she went on to say that she did not think that it was defaced at the time of my complaint i.e. on 20th March in spite of the photo evidence I provided.
Evidence was also presented showing that certain areas had not been cleaned for at least 5 months including a prominent embankment and a shallow ditch in which a bollard, clearly visible from the pavement, had lain unnoticed by the Highways Agency and their contractors through out the Winter and Spring.
As it was ruled that there was no defacement at the time of my complaint I was not awarded costs and was obliged to pay those of the Secretary of State which amounted to £8,100. However the Judge ruled that I should only pay £2,000 on the grounds that I had acted responsibly and, to do other wise, would put decent people off from using the legislation.
I was also not able to recover my own costs which amounted to £8,811. (For the first time I had employed a Barrister). It was therefore an expensive day out. However, I have leant a great deal from the experience which will assist my campaign.
I will issue a further post shortly looking at the lessons learnt and the light the proceedings threw on the way the Highways Agency interpret their responsibilites under the Environmental Protection Act.
2nd August 2012
M40 J1 the Denham roundabout (2011) case study
Video of same junction taken in January 2011 top right hand corner of this page.
Peter Silverman 25th May 2012