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CHIVVY YOUR COUNCIL

"You know, one person pestering the Council can make a bit of a difference"
George Caldicott, Litter Hero

Introduction

Local authorities have a statutory responsibility to remove litter and flytipping from public land, including, streets, roadside verges and parks. Some areas, such as town and city centres, they will litter pick regularly, for others they won't act until they receive a report or complaint from a member of the public. So, you can make quite a big difference just by reporting flytipping and heavily littered areas to your Local Authority.

I would strongly encourage people to exercise this power. However, there are a couple of things to bear in mind:
  1. Typically the process will involve you going home and making a report, the council then sending someone out to assess the problem and then sending a van and a couple of blokes out to clear litter (cost around 35 per hour). Whereas, in many cases, you could have picked up the litter yourself in half an hour.
  2. Local Authorities' budgets are very tight. They do not have the resources to pick up all the litter. If they have to do lots more litter picking it will only increase the upward pressure on council taxes.
I tend use the service only to report flytipping and very heavy littering, or littering where it would be unsafe for me to clear it, e.g. on a main road.

It is easy to knock Local Authorities, but my experience of working with Councillors and Waste Managers is that generally they are hard working individuals who are committed to doing the best they can with the limited resources available.

The Legislation

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA) is the primary bit of legislation that governs littering and flytipping. The EPA makes it a statutory responsibility of the relevant organisation (mostly Local Authorities) to keep their land free of litter and refuse.

Associated with the EPA is a document callled The Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse. This is significant because it categorises the type of land and the degree of littering and, based on these categories, specifies the maximum time period in which the responsible organisation must act. So, for example, litter must be cleared from a city center area within half a day, whereas for a rural lane the time allowed is 14 days.

The Code also identifies land which is categorised as "Special Circumstances", this is land where "..issues of health and safety and reasonableness and practicalityare dominant considerations when undertaking environmental mainatenance work..". For this type of land, the response time is 28 days or "as soon as reasonably practicable".. So, for example, this might apply to a heavy littered dual carriageway, where removing the litter will involve conning off one lane to ensure the safety of the work force.

The long and the short of it is, that if you report a heavily littered area or some fly tipping on a public space or roadside verge, the Local Authority has got to do something about it.

How to report littering and flytipping

Before picking up the phone or logging on to the internet, make sure you are able to describe exactly where the problem is. You'll need the name or number of the road if there is one. If it's in the middle of nowhere a grid reference is very helpful.

Sometimes it can be a difficult knowing which Local Authority is responsible for the area concerned. For example, there are parts of the Cotswolds where it could be any one of three Authorities. However this isn't too much of a problem - if you report it to the wrong one they are pretty good about passing it on. Alternatively, you can use one of the national websites (see below) and they will take care of selecting the right place to send the report>

By phone

You'll find the number of the local authority in the phone book. Just give them a ring and tell the switchboard what you want to do, e.g "report flytipping", and they will connect you to the right people. It's very painless. It's a good idea to make a note of when you made the report and who you spoke to in case you need to follow it up.

Via Local Authority Website

All Local Authorities have websites with facilities to report flytipping and littering. Nearly all the sites have an A-Z on their home page. Just use this to look up flytipping or litter, and it should lead you to the right place. For most you just need to fill in an on-line form.

National Reporting sites

As an alternative to hunting around Local Authority sites the websites communityfix.co.uk and fixmystreet.com offer a easy way to report problems. These sites are good because a) you don't have to worry about knowing which local authority is responsible for the bit of ground because they're software sorts that out, and b) they have interactive maps so you can pinpoint exactly where the problem is. Oh, and these sites are entirely free.

What to do if your Local Authority fails to act

If your Local Authority fails to act within the timescales set out the Code of Practice you can apply to the Magistrates Court for a Litter Abatement Order. From what I can determine, if you have notified the LA of a problem and they have failed to take action within the timescales the steps are:
  1. Send in a written complaint, either to the Head of Waste Services or the Chief Executive.(Make sure you keep a copy)
  2. If they again fail to act within the timescales, send a letter to the Chief Executive giving 5 days notice of your intention to apply for a Litter Abatement order under sectio 91 of the EPA 1990.
  3. If they again fail to act within the 5 days, collate a dossier, i.e. details of original report to LA. copies of letters/emails, any responses etc, and either take it or send it to the Magistrates explaining you wish to initiate a Litter Abatement Order.
The fees involved are 5 for making a complaint, 5 for issue of the summons and 20 for making a summons. If the court believes there was reasonable grounds for complaint the will normally require these cost to be refunded by the LA. The vast najority of cases are resolved before the matter reaches the court.

More details of the process and sample letters are available in Guide to Applying for a Litter Abatement Order


Copyright © Tim Barnes 2008