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Legal action in Feb 2010 by Clean Highways led to the transformation of M40

A Litter Abatement Order complaint was made under S91 of the Environmental Protection Act

The level of cleaning went up overnight by a factor of 6 times!

In 2014 Highways Agency confirmed that the transformation had been brought about  measures introduced in 2010


The left hand photograph, taken in Spring 2010, shows the condition of a typical stretch the M40 at that time. The one to its right shows the same location in June.   Click here to see more before and after photographs. (To enlarge any photograph double click on it).

In the latter part of 2009 I became increasingly aware of the heavily littered state of the verges of  the M40 from J1 to J4 High Wycombe, a stretch of road I use on a regular basis. I had never seen any litter picking in operation.

On 19th February 2010 I sent a warning notice under Section 91 of the EPA to the Secretary Of State for Transport.

[I later found out (see below) that a copy of the the notice had been passed straight to the contractor. Having carried out no litter picking whatsoever since the beginning of February they started doing so on 24th of the month. The average number of kilometers cleansed per month then increased by a factor of 6 times].

I received an unsatisfactory response from the Highways Agency and handed in a Complaint for a Litter Abatement Order to the Wycombe & Beaconsfield Magistrates Court on 24/03/10.  This was accompanied by a statement and photographs taken on 20/02/10,  27/02/10 and 23/03/10 The court eventually issued a Summons on 22nd April.

The issuing of the warning notice in February and the Summons in April clearly spurred the Highways Agency and their contractor into action.  Litter picking trucks became a common site and the verges were transformed by the end of May.

M40 cleaning contractor in action

When my “Complaint for a litter abatement order” was heard at the High Wycombe Magistrates Court on 07/06/2010 I was consequently able to say that an abatement order was no longer appropriate as there was now very little  litter to abate.    The Court then awarded me costs under under EPA  S91(12) which says that if the magistrates are satisfied that, at the time the complaint was made, the highway in question was defaced by litter and there were reasonable grounds for making the complaint the defendant is required to pay costs.

Information Obtained Under the Environmental Information Regulations

I e-mailed the Highways Agency asking under the Environmental Information Regulations  for  information covering the 6 months to 31/03/10.  I asked for notifications from their stakeholders  and  communications / minutes of meeting etc  with UK Highways  referring  to the state of cleanliness or otherwise of these section of the M40″.  I received copies of 19 telephone and e-mail complaints confirming the dire state of the road during that period.  In contrast  I was told that there were no communications / minutes with the contractor as the topic had not been discussed.

The Highways Agency’s maintenance contractors are also subject to the EIR.   I therefore was able to obtain from their M40 contractor, UK Highways M40 Ltd, data on their cleaning activities from which I was able to produce this chart:

M40 cleaning statisticsIt can be seen that cleaning was at a very low level from November to February.  In fact in February no cleaning took place until after the contractor had been sent a copy of my Section 91 Warning Notice  on 24th February.

The litter picking activity in terms of kms  covered  increased by a factor of 6 comparing Nov- Feb to Mar -June !!!!!

Unfortunately the slip roads are still being given little attention.

I wrote to the Highways Agency manager in charge of the M40 in March 2014 congratulating him on the cleanliness of the motorway compared to those elsewhere as asking him how thr transformation had been brought about.

He said the contractor had continued to implement their procedure for assessing, grading and cleaning the M40 that was introduced in 2010“.

See correspondence here.


Peter Silverman
9th April 2014


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