Councils to get tougher powers to deal with ‘litter louts’

Councils have welcomed a government consultation on the proposed introduction of regulations that would enable them to issue fixed penalties to the keeper of a vehicle from which litter is thrown, where the litterer cannot be identified.

The proposal is part of a new government Litter Strategy for England which could also see the most serious ‘litter louts’ hit with £150 fines and a recommendation that offenders on community sentences, including people caught fly-tipping, help councils clear up litter and fly-tipped waste.

The new rules making owners liable even if they did not throw the litter themselves are already in force in London.

Other measures include:

  • Issuing new guidance for councils to be able to update the nation’s ‘binfrastructure’ through creative new designs and better distribution of bins, ‘making it easier for people to discard rubbish’
  • Stopping councils from charging householders for disposal of DIY household waste at civic amenity sites – ‘legally, household waste is supposed to be free to dispose of at such sites’
  • Working with Highways England to target the 25 worst litter hotspots across the road network.

Environment secretary Andrea Leadsom said: ‘Litter is something that affects us all – blighting our countryside, harming our wildlife, polluting our seas, spoiling our towns, and giving visitors a poor impression of our country.

‘Our litter strategy will tackle this antisocial behaviour by building an anti-litter culture; making it easier for people to dispose of rubbish; and hitting litter louts in the pocket.

‘We want to be the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we found it, and tackling litter is an important part of our drive to make the country a better place to live and visit.’

Changing behaviour

The government is to follow the strategy with a new national anti-littering campaign in 2018, working with industry and the voluntary sector to drive behaviour change.

A consultation on the new enforcement measures was launched this week. It seeks views on proposals by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to:

(i) Increase the levels for section 88 fixed penalties in the Environmental Protection Act 1990 for littering and other environmental offences

(ii) Change the provision for how councils can use the income from fixed penalties for environmental offences

(iii) Remove the requirement for parish council enforcement officers to attend a specified training course.

In connection with (i), Defra is also seeking views on potential amendments to the default penalties for littering and related offences, which are set out in the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

The government said guidance would be issued to councils to accompany any new enforcement powers, ‘to make sure they are targeted at cutting litter, while preventing over-zealous enforcement or fines being used to raise revenue’.

Responding to the new litter strategy, Local Government Association chair Lord Porter said: ‘Councils are taking a zero-tolerance approach to fly-tipping and this means using every power at their disposal – including seizing and destroying vehicles used by the dumpers.

‘We are pleased the government has responded to our call for councils to be given appropriate powers to combat litter thrown from cars.

‘Road litter is a big problem for councils at a time when they are experiencing significant budget pressures. It is difficult and expensive to clear rubbish from roadsides and it poses a clear environmental hazard, which impacts on wildlife.

‘The current law states that councils have to prove who in the vehicle has thrown the litter out of the window, which is normally an impossible task. That is why it is important that councils can now fine the owners, making them legally responsible for the litter, regardless of who threw it.’

Lord Porter added: ‘Councils want to work with households so that they can dispose of reasonable household waste easily and cost-effectively and already provide a range of bulky waste collection services, which are often free and picked-up from people’s doorsteps.’

Photo by The Wolf

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