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Nick Harris – HE Operations Director

In June 2020 Terry Dean wrote to his MP Barbara Keeley about the littered state of junctions J12, J13 and J14 14 of the M60.

She passed his letter onto Highways England and received this response from HE’s Operations Director, Nick Harris, dated 15th June 2020.

There are a number of flaws in Mr Harris’ letter.

He failed to explain HE’s statutory duty regarding litter

He refers to HE having a responsibility to “remove” litter in compliance with Environmental Protection Act (EPA) and a Code of Practice published by DEFRA.

The duty is a lot more demanding than just “removing litter” i.e. as and when it suits their contractors to do so. It is to:

ENSURE, so far as is practicable, that they KEEP their highways (including the verges)  CLEAR of litter and refuse. (EPA S89(1).

Environmental Protection Act S89(1)

“Practicable” means “physically possible” without the need to take account of cost, time and trouble.

Guidance note from HE to Midlands local authorities

On this basis it would be difficult to go out and find any motorways slip road, verge or central reservation where HE are compliant with their EPA S89(1) duty.

This is why HE never spell it out even in their own Litter Strategy.

He wrongfully implied that compliance with the Litter Code’s “last resort” response times is synonymous with complying with the EPA S89(1) duty

Taking 28 days to clean a section of verge which has fallen below standard is clearly not consistent with the EPA duty. It should be noted that:

If there appear to be differences between primary or secondary legislation and this Code, the legislation always takes precedence.

DEFRA – Modification to the Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse 2006 Paragraph 6

He wrongly implies that Highways England carry out regular litter inspections and that the slip roads complained about do not need cleaning

The inspections are not carried out by HE management but by their contractors who are paid a fixed amount by HE for general maintenance including litter picking. They therefore have a financial incentive to minimise the amount of time and effort they spend on litter picking and hence to grade littered sections as not requiring remedial action.


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