RAC finds an 'epidemic' of abandoned vehicles as the price of scrap falls

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Roadside dumping of used cars is reaching epidemic proportions in some towns and cities, according to the RAC. The rate at which old bangers are being abandoned is soaring as a sharp fall in the price of scrap metal makes old vehicles virtually worthless, it says.

Roadside dumping of used cars is reaching epidemic proportions in some towns and cities, according to the RAC. The rate at which old bangers are being abandoned is soaring as a sharp fall in the price of scrap metal makes old vehicles virtually worthless, it says.

In a survey of 50 local authorities, the RAC found that some areas have to cope with thousands of used cars left on British roads every year, causing serious environmental and safety problems.

Many drivers of old cars simply abandoned their vehicles when and where they broke down, said the RAC's chief executive, Edmund King.

"Some of our roads now have the appearance of Steptoe's back yard," he said yesterday. "We are asking motorists to think twice before dumping their motors as they cause safety and environmental hazards. It also costs the council taxpayer as local authorities have to pay thousands of pounds a year to remove the cars."

There are 23 million cars currently on the road in the UK, with about two million new cars bought and about 1.5 million old cars scrapped every year.

Although there are no national figures for the number of old cars dumped, the RAC's survey has thrown up surprisingly high figures. It finds:

* Birmingham appears to be the vehicle-dumping capital of the UK, with more than 10,000 cars left in the city area in the past year - a fourfold increase in three years. The cost of dealing with Birmingham's abandoned cars is estimated at £200,000 a year.

* Glasgow's figure has risen to 2,000 a year, with 169 abandoned cars reported in a three-week period of July 2000 alone.

* Last year, 1,300 cars had to be moved in Kent - a sevenfold increase in three years.

* In Islington, north London, the council estimates between 150 and 200 cars are being abandoned every month.

* Edinburgh has about 2,000 abandoned cars a year, while in Liverpool the current figure of 200 a month is falling.

Mr King said: "The combination of falling values for used cars and scrap metal means that many motorists don't dispose of their vehicles properly.

"Many cars are only worth £2 or £3 in scrap value, and often it would cost more in petrol to drive the banger to a scrap yard." He added that many cars were dumped in dangerous positions such as near pedestrian crossings.

Shopkeepers and residents were also concerned that abandoned vehicles took up valuable parking spaces, it was found.

In most areas, officials put a seven-day warning notice on suspected abandoned cars, after first ensuring that police have no interest in them. Of these vehicles, 50 per cent are never claimed or moved and are consequently towed away to the crusher. It costs local authorities between £30 and £45 to have these cars removed.

The survey also found that cars are sometimes dumped in unusual places, including rivers, canals and school playgrounds. The survey also discovered that some Arthur Daley-style second-hand car dealers had been found using streets as car showrooms.

Local councils should act more quickly but should also be given strengthened powers to deal with the car dumpers, Mr King said.

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