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I attended a meeting with Highways England at their new HQ in Guildford on 1st May 2015.

Those present were;

Robert Castleman – Highways England Strategic Lead for Litter
Martin McMahon – Highways England, M25
Harry Garnham – Highways England, Litter Policy
Christopher Barnes – Highways England, FOI and EIR
Nick Wells – Highways England, Litter lead
Peter Silverman, Clean Highways

I was most grateful that these HE executives had made themselves available. One had come all the way from Manchester and one from Leeds. The meeting lasted 2.5 hours.

I explained that Clean Highways position was that Highways England were operating in breach of Environmental Protection Act S89(1)  – duty to keep land clear of litter saying that ample evidence of this was provided by the DIRTY DOSSIER.

However all of the HE executives felt that HE was complying with EPA S89.

Martin McMahon referred to this duty as being “ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the highways was kept clear of litter”. I pointed out that the term in the act was “practicable” not “reasonably practicable” . It was therefore a more stringent requirement than he may have thought.

The much criticised (by me) Asset Support Contract (ASC) had, I was told, been revised and Areas 4 and 12 had been put out to tender. Areas 1,13 and 14 would follow next year

Harry Garnham kindly agreed to provide me with a copy of the section relating to litter.

I said that the old ASC invited the contractor to say how he would fulfill his obligations in the form of a Management Requirements Plan. I said that the sections on litter picking inspections in the Area 10 were a joke. I agreed to send him a copy of the relevant section. I argued that from a legal point of view the MPR  was the contract as this  represented an offer from the contractor which was then accepted by HE. In other words the contracts have all been written by the contractors and are all different.

I was told that maintenance of Area 7 in the East Midlands would be taken in house from June 2016. HE executives would take over the the high level functions but would still employ contractors to carry out the physical work. This was being done on a experimental basis. HE would decide what tasks the contractors would be given on  day to day basis.

Harry Garnham explained that under the 2010 spending review 40% was lopped off the general maintenance (lump sum)  budgets. All of the contracts were re-negotiated.  The ASC was introduced to apply this regime to new contracts.

The contracts specify what the contractor will be paid for general maintenance (lump sum) activities including litter picking, gully cleaning and attending incidents etc and for specified  improvement schemes costing under £10 million.

I referred to my reports to the HE CEO in which I argued that HE should prosecute the operators of waste transport vehicles who allow their loads to spill onto the motorways.  I had explained explained that under English law anyone can bring a prosecution. I said I was disappointed that I had received no response and that those present were still under the impression that HE were unable to bring prosecutions.  Harry Garnham said he would take legal advice and get back to me.

Similarly I had argued that  that HE officers should be able to issue on-the-spot fines for littering. In particular fines could be levied to motorists or passengers  seen dropping litter from  cars queuing at off slip roads where they would be accessible. Bob Castleman agreed to review this  proposal.

Martin McMahon explained the cleaning procedures for the M25 contract. He said there were fortnightly inspections which each section of road was graded in accordance with the Litter Code of Practice gradings  (A,B,C,D etc). I pointed out that the inspections were carried out by the contractor not HE. I also asked how a section which had one or more small below standard areas but was otherwise clean would be graded. It was clear that this point had not been addressed.

The discussions confirmed my view that HE did not have any meaningful control over the work carried out by their contractors.

 

Peter Silverman
5th May 2015

 

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