Councils ponder roadside rubbish

ONE of the region's major roadsides will continue to be covered in tonnes of rubbish as thousands of tourists stream into Suffolk for the Easter break.

ONE of the region's major roadsides will continue to be covered in tonnes of rubbish as thousands of tourists stream into Suffolk for the Easter break.

The first sight to greet visitors will be an ever-growing pile of refuse strewn along the A14, blighting the county's famous landscape.

“It's a concern,” Julian Swainson, Suffolk County Council portfolio holder for sustainable environment, told the EADT last night.

“I want the road verges and every other part of the highways network to be of the high standard that people expect in Suffolk.

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“Already, we are trying to persuade the district councils to step up their cleaning. But there wouldn't be any litter on the side of the roads unless somebody threw it out.

“There is simply no excuse. You can't complain about the environment if you don't take a hand in looking after it yourself.”

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It is the responsibility of the region's district councils to clean the carriageway, but they say health and safety risk problems prevent them from doing so.

Tim Swain, street care manager for Mid Suffolk District Council, said: “The A14 is a nightmare - we have two personnel on the road five days a week, 52 weeks a year and they can't keep up with it.

“We need to use rolling lane closures - like we did last year with great success - but since then the Highways Agency have expressed that they would not let us do it again, for health and safety reasons.

“There are certain parts of the A14 which are too dangerous to do, like the central reservation. I honestly don't know the way forward – it's very demoralising.

“It's an absolute nightmare - and it's one that is facing every district council. The answer to it has not become clear yet, and risk assessments of health and safety are making the job much more difficult.”

A spokesman for Forest Heath District Council said that the Suffolk Waste Management Group – a body made up of all the local councils – is in talks at county level about the issue.

She added: “We would agree with the comments made by Mid-Suffolk in that part of the A14 is our responsibility but we are unable to clean it for the reasons they give.

“We do clean slip roads, laybys and roundabouts, but there are health and safety issues with the carriageways.”

St Edmundsbury Borough and Babergh District Councils are meeting the Highways Agency to ask it to take on responsibility for cleaning the road.

A spokesman for St Edmundsbury said it last cleared the A14 in March and April last year, collecting an incredible 16.5tonnes of rubbish.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Babergh said the authority “recognised the growing problem of litter along the A14” and had earmarked resources to deal with it.

The Highways Agency said it had not any requests for rolling lane closures to clear the rubbish pile.

A spokeswoman added: “The Highways Agency did say that the A14 is difficult to implement rolling lane closures on because it's quite a fast road - but we have not prohibited them.

“In general terms, the Highways Agency actively encourages authorities to take advantage of any agency-enforced closures to carry out such work.

“The Highways Agency itself is concerned about the rubbish issue because we have been receiving lots of complaints, which we have redirected to the local authorities.

“The Highways Agency has also written to all the authorities in Suffolk about major trunk roads asking for their programme for clearing the rubbish - and has had only one response so far, from Ipswich Borough Council.”

Nigel Tansley Thomas, regional director for Keep Britain Tidy, said: “It seems a shame that health and safety issues should stand in the way - but we must listen and try to find another way of doing things.

“The simple solution is for people not to chuck rubbish out of the cars. If they knew just how much it costs to put traffic management in and clean the verges then they wouldn't do it.

“They have to pay for it at the end of the day - and it costs tens of thousands of pounds.”

Editorial comment – Page 5

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