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Section of A404 HE trunk road cleaned by Wycombe DC

I believe that Highways England should take over the cleaning of all of trunk roads  on their network. Currently HE are only responsible for cleaning some of them.

In my e-mail of 1st March 2017 to Philip Rutnam, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Transport I wrote:

“As you know most of the trunk roads on the HE network have to be cleansed by the various local authorities through which they pass. So before the HE contractor can cut the grass the council’s
contractor has to pick up the litter.

The C&LG Select Committee recommended that responsibility for cleansing these roads should be transferred to HE.

One local authority had described co-ordinating  activities with the Highways Agency as a “nightmare”.

Chichester Council have said – this would generate obvious logistical and financial efficiencies.

In their response to the report the government stated that this would require primary legislation which is incorrect.

Will you please recommend to the Secretary of State for Transport that he issues an order under EPA S86(11) to transfer the cleansing of the remaining all-purpose trunk roads from the
respective local authorities to Highways England?

One year later it looks as if the government might at long last be giving this serious consideration – or are they just stalling for time. See written answer from Jesse Norman MP of 3rd May 2018 and my email to the Permanent Secretary at the DfT, Bernadette Kelly of 14th May.

Evidence from Chichester

Chichester City Council are one of several councils along the south coast who each have to clean their section of the A27.  Chief Executive, Diane Shepherd says, in reference to my proposal :

I fully agree with this approach.  This would generate obvious logistical and financial efficiencies

Co-ordination of their activities with those of the relevant HE contractor can be problematic as demonstrated here:

Evidence from Warwickshire

Sean Lawson Head of Environmental Services at Rugby Borough Council, a member of the Warwickshire Waste Partnership, was questioned by Simon Danczuk MP in November 2014 at the Communities and Local Government Commons Select Committee hearing into Litter:

Q89 Simon Danczuk: ….How do you work with the Highways Agency in terms of ensuring that motorway trunk roads are kept clean?

Sean Lawson: We find it a nightmare

Simon Danczuk: Why is that?

Sean Lawson: It is because they do not communicate with us. They produce a wonderful glossy strategy document that says how they will work with local authorities, but we get very little engagement. We find that there is a road closure on by travelling down the road. We could have done a lot of work. We arrange with them to go out and do work when they have road closures on, and they don’t turn up. I have two or three crews out there at midnight waiting to clean a highway and they are not there.

Simon Danczuk: They are just wasting council tax payers’ money.

Sean Lawson: Yes

Evidence from Tendring

Here is a quote from Tendring District Council in reference to the A120, the strategic link into Harwich.

I can confirm that I have emailed and left voice messages with the highways contractor carrying out the roadworks along the A120 with the intention of litter picking the central reservation at night whilst the road closures were in place, our contractors have provided me with costs and manpower for the job. Unfortunately , despite several efforts I have not received any communication back and without their consent and permission our contractors can not carry out these works (6th Feb 2017)

Evidence from Northampton

This article from the Northampton Chronicle  shows (1)  just how  littered these roads can become  and (2) how poor the co-ordination between HE’s contractors and the council can be. The former coned off lanes to carry out tree cutting without making sure the council took the opportunity of removing the litter.

Evidence from Guildford (A3)

In response to a complaint from Steve Collins Guildford Borough Council stated (11/01/2018)

‘As this is a high speed road it can only be cleaned when we have road closure in place. We have got closures booked for the A3 but we will not know the exact area that we can clean until the contractors tell us. The cleaning depends on a lot of factors but traffic count and weather are just two, we never know about these until the actual time and cleaning can be halted at any time.’

Evidence from Stockton / A66

Article inNorthern Echo  Responsibility for cleansing this HE trunk road (APTR)  lies with the local authorities contrary to the statements made by the council.  The article demonstrates beautifully the problems of separating the responsibility for cleansing from other maintenance work.

Evidence from Brighton / Lewes – A27

From Amanda Flude 25th March 2018 :   I drove the length of the A27 between Shoreham and Lewes yesterday and found the state of the verges quite distressing. It is the worst I have ever seen it…….. As mentioned below much of the debris has obviously been there for many months and has become tangled in the undergrowth; there is everything from old traffic cones and plastic sheeting, to bags of rubbish and general litter, what is so appalling is the sheer amount of rubbish!

Evidence from other councils

Councils unaware of their responsibilities

Please refer to this post of 2014: Councils unaware of responsibility to clean trunk roads and motorway roundabouts

Support from the C&LC Select Committee

This proposal now has the support of the Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee.

In their response to the Committee’s report the Government stated that: ….to make HE legally responsible for litter collection on all the roads that they operate ….. would need primary legislation and would include complicated alterations to funding arrangements that would reduce the resources available to local authorities.

However  the government already have powers to transfer cleansing duties from a local authority to a highways authority (e.g. Highways England) under EPA86 (11).

They were used in the Highway Litter Clearance and Cleaning (Transfer of Responsibility) (England) Order 2009 which transferred responsibility for cleaning several APTRs from various local authorities to the Highways Agency under this legislation in 2009.

Why did the government mislead parliament on this point?

According to Chichester City Council’s Chief Executive, Diane Shepherd,  her council  does not receive any specific funding for cleaning their section the A27.  It would seem therefore that no adjustments in funding would be required. Additional funding needs to be provided to HE in any case and an extra amount could be provided to cover these extra duties.

 Midland Experiment

In a letter to Andrew Tyrie MP of 17th August 2015 , the Under Secretary of State for Transport Andrew Jones wrote:

For instance, a pilot scheme in the Midlands is being progressed to transfer sweeping and cleaning activities from councils to Highways England by agreement on a number of all-purpose trunk roads.

On 8th April 2016 Marcus Jones, Minister for Local Government wrote to Kevin Hollinrake MP saying

Highways England’s Midlands region signed a partnership agreement with a number of local authorities in December 2015 which formalised a collaborative approach to working to clear litter. This is already delivering results from widespread sharing of equipment and resources.

So what is supposed to be happening – the transfer of cleansing activities or formal collaboration?

Peter Silverman
8th May 2018






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