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Press release 5th April 2011

On April 6, 2011, in Press & Media, by PeterSilverman

Press Release from Clean Highways

“Our Littered Motorways”

  • Highways Agency’s Business Plan ignores Minister’s concerns over motorway litter
  • Our Littered Motorways – report blames mismanagement at Highways Agency
  • “Highways Agency paying for services that are not being provided” claims campaigner
  • Campaigner takes Government to court again over littered M40

For further information please read, and follow the links, on this e-mail to Mike Penning MP, Under-secretary of State for Transport and/or contact me at

(Phone number removed).    Peter Silverman 5th April 2011

From: Peter Silverman []
Sent: 01 April 2011 12:10
To: Mike Penning (Under-secretary of State for Transport)
Cc: ‘Will Gates’; Nick Hurd (MP For Ruilsip Northwood)
Subject: Our Littered Motorways

Dear Mr Penning,

Thank you for your letter of 31st March. It can be conveniently accessed, together with our previous correspondence, via this link.

I am of course disappointed that you are unable to meet with myself and the Campaign to Protect Rural England to review my report, “Our Littered Motorways”.

It was inspired by your speech last March at the Transport Committee debate on “Motorway Litter” which you had called for.   In your opening remarks you said (paraphrased):

“Our road networks, in particular our motorways are blighted by rubbish…. I am aware that there is legislation in place however ….. it is frankly not workingTravel up the M1 from Brent Cross and you are driving through a rubbish tip”.

In my report and our subsequent correspondence, I argued that this state of affairs had been brought about by the Highways Agency’s failure to ensure that their maintenance contractors delivered the service that they were being paid for. This has not only resulted in our motorways being, as you say, “blighted by rubbish”, but also, it could be argued, represents a serious and unwarranted transfer of public money to private businesses.

I assume you must have raised your concerns about litter with the Agency after you took over ministerial responsibility for our motorways.  If so, your overtures appear to have had little impact judging by their Business Plan for 2011/2012 which was published yesterday.  In its 35 pages it contains no references whatsoever to litter or cleansing.  It spells out 10 performance measures none of which refer to cleansing.

Interestingly it says that the Agency plans a gradual renegotiation of contracts with their maintenance service providers.  It is important therefore that they take this opportunity to comply with the recommendations of the Office of Government Commerce and to build into the cleansing sections of the new contracts proper performance specifications, associated monitoring  procedures and mechanisms for taking remedial action where performance falls below specification.

You have kindly arranged for meet with senior officials in the Department for Transport and the Highways Agency.  I would like to use that opportunity to discuss the new contacts with them to ensure past mistakes are not repeated.  This could help to obviate the sort of problems currently being experienced on the M40.

On 24th February I complained to the Agency about the slip roads at J1 of the M40.  One of the slip roads is still in a quite horrendous state. It was last cleaned (inadequately) on 24th January.  It was inspected by the contractor on 9th March and identified as substandard. In spite of this the Agency are saying that it may not now be cleaned until August!   I have therefore been obliged to apply to the court for a Litter Abatement Order against the Secretary of State to force him to arrange a more urgent response.

Mr Penning, in closing, may I ask you whether or not you still feel that our motorways are blighted by litter, and if not, what has changed your mind?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

Peter Silverman

Quotes from Peter Silverman of Clean Highways:

When I saw the video of Mike Penning’s speech I was overjoyed.  At last, I thought, we had someone in the driving seat who would sort out the problem of our littered motorways.

I was shocked to see that after 10 months in charge of the Highways Agency he seems to have had no impact whatsoever.  Their brand new Business Plan makes absolutely no reference to the litter problem.

The people in charge seem totally disconnected from the problems on the ground.

I had asked to be considered for membership of a Performance Monitoring Group for the Highways Agency that the Government announced in November would be set up.  Mr Penning has now written to me to say that

“the Group’s role will be considered as part of the proposed independent review to determine whether the Government has the most appropriate approach to the operation, maintenance and enhancement of the strategic roads network”

He does not need an independent review – I can tell him – they do not.

He should put a business man in charge of the Agency – someone who understands that you do not pay contractors for work they are not doing – i.e. keeping on motorways free of litter.

In the meantime I would urge people to take advantage of their rights under the Environmental Protection Act to take the Government to the Magistrates Court and seek a Litter Abatement Order to force them to clean up any motorway verges that they identify are being neglected.

A guide is provided on the Clean Highways web site


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