A14 Cambrideshire

“Litter along the A14 in particular from Cambridge to Newmarket is thick with litter”

The A14 in Cambridgeshire is part of the Highway Agency’s network of strategic motorways and trunk roads. Whilst they are responsible for general maintenance responsibility for cleaning lies, it would appear,  with the various local authorities along the route.

On 31st January Clean Highways received an e-mail from John Pearce expressing his rage over litter on this road.

On 15th March Samantha Munro wrote to me and the CPRE saying

The litter along the A14 in particular from Cambridge to Newmarket and beyond is thick with litter everywhere you look! Bags stuck in hedgerows, blowing like flags from trees, and debris all along the verge for as far as the eye can see“.

She followed this up with an e-mail to the Highways Agency in which she said:

The verges on both sides are thick with litter both on the ground and caught in the undergrowth. This is dangerous to both the wildlife and to drivers using the road. On a number of occasions during windy weather rubbish has freely been blowing onto the carriageway.

I am astonished at the level of maintenance applied to this busy road. I understand that this is more than likely contracted out to another company, but I have never seen any litter collecting taking place, hence the terrible state of the roadside.

It is depressing and quite frankly shaming that it has been allowed to get this bad.”

On 24th March John Latham wrote to the Highways Agency and Julian Huppert MP backing up Mrs Munro. He said that:

As Cambridge residents we are regular users of the A14 and every time we set out we are dismayed and astonished at the never reducing and shameful volume of litter on the A14, particularly on the section from Cambridge to Newmarket and beyond mentioned by Ms Munro. Given the number of vehicles driven by visitors of all kinds from other countries using this road the situation should be a matter of national as well as local concern“.

On 29th March Alan Knight e-mailed me to say:

“Last Saturday (26 March) I travelled with my family to Northants using the A11 and A14. We were all shocked and appalled at the amount of roadside litter on the A14 Newmarket by-pass”.

On 30th March the Highways Agency replied to Mrs Munro.  They said:

Whilst the Highways Agency is responsible for the maintenance of the trunk road network, it is not responsible for the clearance of litter along all these roads. Under the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act 1990: Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse, the sweeping and clearing, the great majority of the trunk road network is the responsibility of the District and Borough Councils through which they pass.

Regular communication is forwarded to district and borough councils from the Highways Agency’s managing agents, Carillion-WSP, reminding them of their responsibilities with regards to litter collection.

We are currently organising with all the District Councils in the Cambridgeshire area to hold a litter forum meeting to tackle the litter problems and issues.

The clearing of litter from trunk roads such as the A14 often requires traffic lane closures to protect the workforce and the travelling public, while litter picking takes place. The extent of traffic management required and the delays caused to traffic have to be considered and this may limit the amount of litter clearance that can be accomplished.

Carillion-WSP do inform the councils of the times and dates of when routine maintenance operations are taking place on the network, so that the council’s workforce can utilise the traffic management in place for those works to perform litter collection activities“.

It is interesting to see the standard mantra about  delays to traffic resulting from traffic management (i.e coning off lanes)  having to be considered etc.  Not so,  the EPA requires the duty bodies to ensure their roads are kept clear of litter and refuse as far as is “practicable”.

“Practicable” however simply means “physically possible” without the need to take account of cost, time and trouble. This is in contrast to “reasonably practicable” were these considerations would come into play. They cannot therefore use traffic management as an excuse.  They just have to get on with it.

I believe the way forward in this case  would be for would be for someone to set in motion a complaint for a Litter Abatement Order against the relevant local authority.


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