Litter 'disgrace' of A14 revealed

THE appalling, rubbish-strewn state of the A14 has today been branded “a disgrace” amid calls for action to clean it up.

Russell Claydon

THE appalling, rubbish-strewn state of Suffolk's busiest trunk road has been branded “a disgrace” amid calls for action to clean it up.

An EADT investigation has shown the extent to which the A14 - the first part of the county that many visitors will see - is littered with junk.

Travelling the length of the county's stretch, from Felixstowe to Newmarket, we found huge amounts of discarded plastic, polystyrene, paper, tin, food remnants and even underwear.

Bottles filled with urine and bags full of rubbish are also being dumped at lay-bys despite signs warning motorists of hefty fines.

Our investigation revealed Suffolk's greenest county bid is being undermined by the extent of rubbish being littered along the A14.

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Tourists driving in to Suffolk are being confronted by verges overflowing with beer bottles, cigarette packets, coffee cups and aerosols. And councils charged with clearing up the mess admitted they were struggling to keep on top of the problem.

Stopping at nine lay-bys along the counties busiest transport route, we even uncovered underwear hanging on bushes and found dense piles of rubbish on undergrowth metres from a service station near Newmarket.

BBC Radio Suffolk launched its Don't Be a Tosser Campaign last week after breakfast show presenter Mark Murphy first highlighted the unsightly problem.

He said: “I just think it is disgraceful. I know we have got a litter problem in this country but when you drive along the A14 it is the worst it has ever been.

“I do not know why people don't take it home because it is not difficult and it is costing a fortune to pick it up.

“People say they pay their taxes but if we did not lob it out there we would not have to pay so much.

“I am a local boy, I am passionate about Suffolk and I think it is a great place, but imagine the impact this has on visitors - it is their first impression of the county.”

Our drive through the county found a nature reserve renowned for its bluebells - just before the Wherstead turn-off near Ipswich - blighted by huge amounts of dumped waste, while a lay-by between Rougham and Bury St Edmunds was among the most untidy, despite a sign telling motorists of a £100 penalty.

Liz Harsant, leader of Ipswich Borough Council, revealed it was costing councils £1,780 per kilometre to remove litter from the A14 and described the situation they faced as “grim”.

She said they had installed technology to try and track down people who dumped litter and added that two appointed enforcement officers had issued hundreds of fines for littering.

“Although it is the council's job I do think we as residents do have a responsibility as well,” she said. “Litter picking days are a good idea and we should try and get schools and more people involved.”

Paul Lewis, Mid Suffolk District Council's waste and environmental manager, said the authority spent around £65,000 a year picking rubbish off the A14, carrying out twice-weekly litter picks in conjunction with emptying bins they had installed at lay-bys.

But he said the traffic on the road meant it was unsafe for workers to clean particular areas on a regular basis, such as the central reservation, and called on the Highways Agency to over take the responsibility.

“We believe the A14 should be declared a special route. There is so much freight on there and the Highways Agency has the power to put in lane closures and other traffic management measures that we don't,” he said.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council said it was considering installing bins in the lay-bys to tackle the problem outside Bury St Edmunds.

After the EADT contacted Forest Heath District Council about the volume of litter outside Newmarket, a spokeswoman said: “All Suffolk local authorities work together in a consortium to keep the A14 tidy and unfortunately, in recent weeks, we have experienced some difficulties with our specialist contractor. These problems have now been resolved and the clearing of the A14 will improve.

“We will investigate this particular incident and are grateful to the EADT for drawing it to our attention.”

Suffolk Coastal District Council said it had a two-man “hit squad” covering the parts of the A14 and A12 in their area over a two-week cycle.

“It is depressing to admit that the type of rubbish you have found in the lay-by is sadly typical of the disgusting items left by some irresponsible drivers,” a spokeswoman said.

“However much we or local communities do, the final responsibility lies with those selfish, lazy people who cannot be bothered to properly dispose of their litter.”

Mick Poole, 53, who has been driving trucks along the A14 for 30 years, said the situation was causing problems with rats and insisted it was not just lorry drivers - who have complained of a lack of facilities along the route - to blame for the litter.

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