55.Clearing litter and fly-tipping from the roads in England is the responsibility of either local authorities or the Highways Agency. The Agency is responsible for keeping motorways and a small proportion of all-purpose trunk roads clean, while local authorities are responsible for the roads in towns and cleaning the majority of trunk roads.88 However, the Highways Agency is responsible for the maintenance of these trunk roads including maintaining verges and grass-cutting.
56.Clean Highways, a group focussing on legislation on litter, pointed out that before cleaning a trunk road a council would often have to get permission from the Highways Agency to close a lane. The Agency would normally insist the work was carried out late at night to minimise traffic disruption, but councils were ill-equipped to handle this work which often necessitated hiring crash cushion vehicles and signage.89 Warwickshire Waste Partnership explained that despite repeated efforts local authorities had been unable to establish effective partnerships, coordination and communication with the Highways Authority and their contractors. It said that working with the Highways Agency was “a nightmare”.90 In addition, the costs associated with litter removal and implementing safe methods of working on trunk roads were disproportionately expensive for district and borough councils. For example, an 11 mile section (5.5 miles each way) of the A46 on the edge of Coventry took five workers 17 days to complete. They collected 6 tonnes of litter and waste at a cost of £22,000: that was £2,000 per mile.91 Tim Harbot from the Highways Agency said they did try to coordinate with local authorities and “institute litter forums, whereby we write out to local authorities and invite them to come to sessions where we try to debate how we are going to do things better”.92
57.In London, where Transport for London (TFL), rather than the Highways Agency, maintains trunk roads, Wandsworth Council said they had similar problems trying to coordinate clearing litter with TFL’s scheduled road works. Shaun Morley said there was “always a bit of conflict about who is responsible. And the lines are not as clear as they could be in some instances”.93
58.The Local Government Association (LGA) suggested that a national approach to keeping key trunk roads clean and clear would be more efficient as it would combine the road closure function of the Highways Agency with that of clearance.94 The Highways Agency said it would “certainly be open to discussions around taking on responsibilities and duties, but […] that would need an increase in our resource funding to enable us to take them on.”95
59.Dan Rogerson, the Defra Minister, said the Government was willing to look at this issue and would await our recommendations, but he also noted that it should not take “a huge amount of effort” for local authorities to work with the Highways Agency.96 Kris Hopkins, the DCLG Minister, agreed and said, “we have some well-paid and very clever people who work in local authorities. It does not take much more than a phone call to try to find a solution”.97
60.It should be possible for local councils to coordinate with the Highways Agency or Transport for London to enable easy access for road and street cleaning. However, this is not happening. Nor are we convinced this is the most efficient approach to street cleaning since it is difficult to organise and it is not cost-effective for local authorities to have staff working through the night. It would be much better, and cost-effective to remove the anomaly which gives the Highways Agency, and Transport for London in London, responsibility for maintaining trunk roads and another body responsibility for cleaning them. We understand that a proposal to transfer cleaning responsibilities for all purpose trunk roads to the Highways Agency has been under consideration by the Department for Transport for some time. We recommend that the Government make the Highways Agency responsible for cleaning trunk roads and make the necessary budget adjustments. Similarly, we recommend that responsibility for cleaning trunk roads in the London area should become the responsibility of Transport for London.
61.The Government reports that the Highways Agency cleared 150,000 bags of rubbish from the major road network in 2012/13 at a cost of around £6 million—that is, £40 per bag.98 Government statistics on fly-tipping reveal that 47% of incidents occurred on highways. It is relatively easy to drop a bag of rubbish on the side of the road at night, or to throw an empty sandwich packet out of the car window. It is difficult for councils to identify the culprit who carried out the action. Councils report that it is almost impossible to detect and therefore the current arrangements and penalties for littering from vehicles are unenforceable.99
62.There are legislative changes relating to litter and fly-tipping from vehicles in the pipeline, but CPRE commented on the slow pace at which this legislation is being brought forward. The Environment Agency and local authorities have powers to seize and dispose of vehicles used in illegal waste dumping under the Control of Pollution (Amendment) Act 1989. In April 2015 these are due to be replaced by the new powers under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 which are designed to “enable enforcement authorities in England and Wales to disrupt and prevent illegal waste activities more effectively than at present […] enabling officers to stop search and seize vehicles suspected of involvement in waste crime”.100 John Rea, from Defra, told us that the Government had also “been consulting on introducing vehicle seizure regulations or strengthening vehicle seizure regulations for fly-tipping offences”. He said the Government hoped to introduce a statutory instrument in this Parliament.101
63.As regards litter thrown from vehicles, the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 provides for civil penalties to be imposed on the registered keepers of vehicles from which littering offences are committed (rather than establishing the culprit). These powers are already available to local authorities in London, and are due to be extended to the rest of the country in April 2015.102 Mr Rogerson commented: “We are now looking at how that can be implemented and what contribution that could make. It has been the situation in London for some time, but not outside London, so we are now looking at what a difference that could make.”103
64.The Government has been slow to update legislation relating to litter thrown from vehicles and fly-tipping from vehicles. We recommend that it bring into operation before the end of this Parliament long overdue legislation in the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 providing for the seizure of vehicles involved in fly-tipping offences. We also recommend that it extend immediately to all local authorities in England, the powers in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill 2014 to impose penalties on the owner of a vehicle from which litter is dropped.
88 Trunk roads are often the major routes into towns and cities. Clean Highways ()
89 Clean Highways ()
91 Warwickshire Waste Partnership ()
94 Local Government Association () para 5.2.2
98 DCLG ()
99 Qq58, 64, 276
100 DCLG () paras 4.5, 4.15
102 DCLG () para 4.16