This page explains how you can force public land managers to address litter hot spots by using a little known power called a Litter Abatement Order. Please read on for more information.
What is a Litter Abatement Order?
How can I use Litter Abatement Orders?
How do I seek a Litter Abatement Order?
CPRE's guide to Litter Abatement Orders
Put simply, a Litter Abatement Order can be used by a member of the public to improve the cleanliness of their local environment. A Litter Abatement Order allows any person to serve a notice (via a Magistrates' Court) to get long standing litter problems cleared up.
Section 89 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 places a legal responsibility (called a 'duty') on certain organisations to ensure that land is kept clear of litter. Section 91 of the EPA goes on to state that a person who is fed up with a long-standing litter problem can use a Litter Abatement Order against those organisations listed under Section 89 (called the 'duty bodies') if they are failing in their duty to keep the land clean.
How can I use a Litter Abatement Order?
You might be a concerned local resident, someone who works locally, a regular visitor or just have an interest in the area. You can also apply as an individual representing a voluntary or community group. If you are fed up with litter spoiling a public area then a Litter Abatement Order will force the issue to be addressed. In nearly all cases just notifying the land managers that you intend to seek a Litter abatement Order is enough to get that land cleared up.
Firstly the land must fall under the responsibility of one of the duty bodies mentioned in the Environmental Protection Act 1990. A Litter Abatement Order cannot be used against owners of private land. Public land owners include local and county councils, the Highways Agency, train operating companies, Network Rail, schools and universities. You need to build a case that the duty body is failing in its legal responsibilities and the best way of documenting this is through photographs.
Once you have some photographs of the problem you need to complain to the duty body and ask them to clear it up. If nothing happens you can then seek a Litter Abatement Order from your local Magistrates' Court. For more information and a step by step guide to the process please refer to CPRE's guide - Litter Abatement Orders: Taking action to deal with persistent litter problems.
If you would like to know more about Litter Abatement Orders then please download a copy of CPRE's guide from the panel on the right hand side of this page. If you use the guide CPRE would be thrilled to hear how you get on. A Litter Abatement Order has never been issued before and they would love to hear from you if you become the first. Your experiences can help CPRE revise this guide and could be incorporated. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
Readers should be aware that a number of aspects of the above guidance in respect of taking action against a ‘duty body’ differ in Scotland.
Scotland has its own legal system which is quite different from other parts of the UK and applications are made to the Sheriff with appeals being made to the Court of Session.
In addition, the terminology and language used is different with ‘road’ being used instead of highway; ‘Transport Scotland’ rather than the Highways Agency,
Keep Scotland Beautiful acts in a similar capacity as Keep Britain Tidy and have produced a Scottish version of the Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse – COPLAR to reflect those differences. The Scottish COPLAR contains guidance in Appendix 5 to assist persons aggrieved by litter and refuse on public land. http://www.keepscotlandbeautiful.org
Legislation and guidance is subject to regular review and change. Accordingly, readers are strongly advised to ensure that they are using the most up-to-date versions.
We are grateful to George Niblock of the Aberdeenshire Litter Initiative (Ali) for contributing this clarification of the use of litter abatement orders in Scotland.