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Highways England refer to their duty as merely to “remove litter” rather than to ensure their network is kept clear of litter

This line is supported by DEFRA

The DfT make 35 references to “noise” and 31 to “bio-diversity” but none to “litter” in their Road Investment Strategy.

HE  act in breach of their license by not laying down a timetable for litter strategic plan


HE have a duty under S89(1) of the Environmental Protection Act to ensure, so far as is practicable, that the network is kept clear of litter and refuse. [Under an amendment brought in under  paragraph 110 of Schedule 1 of the Infrastructure Act 2015].


However in a letter to Barbara Keeley MP, following a complaint by Clean Highways supporter Terry Dean, HE Executive Director David Brewer wrote simply “we are responsible for removing litter …”

If the duty was merely to remove litter then it would be acceptable to allow accumulations to build up provided they were eventually removed e.g. just once a year. However, this would not constitute ensuring that the land was kept clear of litter.

The very same terminology was used in HE’s Delivery Plan (2015 -2020). In 6.1.9 it says “Highways England will deliver its duties under the Environmental Protection Act by removing litter from our motorway network”.

In a letter to Clean Highways supporter, Linda McGeachie, HE referred to: “a responsibility under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to collect litter on motorways”.

I cannot find any Highways England / Highways Agency publication that properly spells out the EPA S89(1) duty.

It’s not in their 19 page Litter Strategy, published in 2014, or their earlier 13 page Environment Strategy, or their 21 page Managing our Approach to Environmental Performance documents.

DEFRA seem to support the same line. In an e-mail to Bob Lane they wrote “The Highways Agency (HA) is responsible for clearing litter from motorways and some trunk roads”.  DEFRA Minister Rory Stewart repeated the same mantra in June  saying “.. Highways England is responsible for clearing litter from motorways..”

The Department of Transport is equally evasive.

Under Section 3 of the Infrastructure Act the Secretary of State for Transport was required to set up a Road Investment Strategy for Highways England. In so doing he had to have regard to the environment.

The resulting  Road Investment Strategy  however does not make a single reference to “litter” in its 160 pages in spite of including sections headed “Delivering better environmental outcomes“ (2 pages), “Keeping the Network in good condition” (1 page) and  “Improving user satisfaction”  (2 pages) and 1 page on an earmarked “Environment Fund”. In contrast it makes 35 references to “noise” and 31 to “bio-diversity”.

The regulator fails to censure Highways England over license breach

The Office of Rail & Road,  have the job of ensuring that HE comply with the Road Investment Strategy and their License , the statutory directions and guidance laid down by the Secretary of State.

Section 5.24 of the Licence says “the license holder must develop and implement strategic plans that demonstrate how it aims to meet its legal duties and other obligations with regard to the environment ….. published to timescales specified in the Licence holder’s Delivery Plan”.

One of the legal duties would of course be compliance with EPA S89(1). However in the Delivery Plan (2015 – 2020)  there is no reference to a strategic plan covering this duty, never mind a timescale for its production.

This has been pointed out to the ORR.

E-mail to HE Chairman commenting on HE’s letter to Barbara Keeley MP

Peter Silverman
21st September 2015



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