British roadsides becoming 'a linear tip', says Bill Bryson


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The Independent Online

Britain's roadsides are becoming a "linear" rubbish tip, according to Bill Bryson, the writer and president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

The Notes From a Small Island author said littering has become so bad it was becoming the default position.

Research from the car breakdown company Green Flag suggests 29 million cigarette butts are thrown from cars each year and the CPRE has renewed calls to make it easier to fine people for littering from vehicles.

The research also shows 7.4 million food items and 5.2 million tissues have also been thrown from car windows by inconsiderate drivers.

Anglophile Bryson, who has written extensively about Britain, said: "Litter is becoming the default condition of the British roadside.

"Often these days you feel as if you are driving through a kind of large, informal linear tip.

"Surely we are entitled to expect better.

"A clean and lovely countryside shouldn't be a surprise. It should be a right."

Currently effective action to tackle this problem outside London is hampered by inadequate legislation, the CPRE said.

The research showed nine million drivers (18%) threw litter from their cars in 2011.

Ben Stafford, head of CPRE campaigns, said: "When people get away with littering we all end up footing the bill.

"In a perfect world people would take responsibility for their own litter, and we encourage everyone to do this.

"However, it is clearly not enough to ask people to do the right thing.

"As this research shows, some people are shockingly irresponsible in their behaviour, believing that it is acceptable to jettison litter from their vehicles because they can't wait for a bin, or because they don't like their cars to be cluttered.

"It's time to toughen sanctions against drivers who allow litter to be thrown from their cars by making sure they face a fine when it happens."

According to the Department for Communities and Local Government, clearing up litter currently costs councils in England £863 million a year.

But the figure does not include the cost of cleaning Highways Agency roads (motorways and many A roads) and land along railways, or the cost of clearing fly-tipping on public or private land.

The CPRE said the actual figure for clearing up litter in England is more than £1 billion annually.

Existing laws allows councils to fine people up to £80 if they can be shown to have thrown litter from a car.

In practice however, councils find it very difficult to use the power as it is often impossible to prove who within the car was responsible for littering.

CPRE is campaigning for an amendment to the existing law allowing councils to issue fines to the registered owner of the vehicle, who would then be responsible for paying the fine unless they nominated another person to pay it.