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DEFRA have been asked to remove “last resort response times”

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 councils and Highways England have a statutory duty to ensure they keep their highways clear of litter so far as is practicable (n.b. not “reasonably practicable”) implying the need to fund regular cleansing programs. Under the Act DEFRA have to issue practical guidance on the discharge of this duty.

From the outset their Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse (COPOL) was instead used to undermine the duty by introducing a regime of “last resort” response times by which had to be returned to an acceptable standard.

For a busy lay-by – which might require a daily clean by a man-in-a-van – the response time is 14 days. For a motorway verge it is 28 days or as soon as “reasonably” practicable which means it is open ended!

Some duty bodies such as the Central London Boroughs and London Underground do fund regular cleansing regimes. At the other extreme Highways England work solely on the response times.

In essence we grade the network for litter on a weekly basis and then apply the EPA timescales to any defects which are highlighted”

Highways England Area 12 21st Nov 2018

DEFRA only had one problem the Act gave citizens the right to take a duty body to the magistrates court if they failed to clean land within 5 days of receiving a warning notice. FIVE DAYS! Presumably Parliament felt that 5 days was sufficient to time to cleanse any land or the highway after it became defaced So what is all this about 14 or 28 days?

Astonishingly sometime between the 1990 and the 2006 versions of COPOL DEFRA introduced a section which said that a court action could only proceed if the land had been littered for longer than their response times.

On 22nd November 2019 I decided to write to the Secretary of State for DEFRA, Theresa Villiers with a “letter before a claim for a Judicial Review” asking her remove the last resort response time provisions from COPOL.

Peter Silverman
Litter – the big Westminster cover up
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