This week my article for the Herald and Post focuses on an issue that everyone has a strong opinion about, littering...
The front page of last week’s Alton Herald led with a story on littering. On reading the article you could sense the frustration of the writers from Alton and Petersfield, who so articulately described this modern-day plague on our towns and villages.
Living in East Hampshire, and being surrounded by beautiful countryside and wonderful wildlife, it baffles me why anyone would think that it’s ok to drop litter. Driving around, it’s hard not to get angry when you see building waste and fast-food bags strewn amongst the grass verges.
National campaigns such as the ‘Great British Spring Clean’ can and do make us stop and think about the places we live in and hopefully motivate us to get involved. I’m always heartened to see local litter picks and campaigns like the ‘Big Spring Clean’ organised by East Hants District Council. I was also delighted to see such as a large turnout for the recent ‘Big Spring Clean’ in Alton and the difference made to the town in just one morning.
This Sunday marks the start of a 10 day ‘Clean up for the Coronation’ blitz in Petersfield where the Petersfield Society are encouraging volunteers to spend time collecting litter from the town ahead of the King’s Coronation on the 8th May. It’s fantastic that there are so many community-minded people living in East Hampshire willing to get involved, but also a shame that these events are needed when disposing of litter is such a simple thing to do.
Years ago, the ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ campaign was ever present. It was something drilled into you at school. In the intervening years, something has happened to our psyches. The moral obligation to clean up after yourself is for some people entirely absent. Is it because we are now a lot more transient and therefore have less of an emotional pull to the places we live in? Or is that people just don’t care anymore? Or is it just seen as someone else’s problem?
As you might expect, I receive many letters from exasperated constituents who witness appalling littering in their local community, particularly around the summer months when tourists descend on our renowned beauty spots. Areas around Frensham Ponds, the South Downs National Park and Alice Holt become litter hotspots as people visit for a day and then dump their rubbish before heading home without a thought for the people that live nearby.
There are, of course, a number of tools at the Council’s disposal, such as on the spot fines for offenders and, in serious cases, prosecution. As councils increase their use of Artificial Intelligence and ANPR cameras to capture perpetrators in the act, I’m hopeful that we can start to swing the tide the other way.
Progress is being made on the motorways too. National Highways, the body responsible for motorways and major A roads in England must now report annually on the amount of litter alongside their roads. Add this week’s Westminster Hall debate on littering will have further highlighted the dangers of littering on the motorway and the complexities involved with removing rubbish from alongside a high-speed road.
But for me, all the enforcement powers and technology in the world is not going to tackle the root cause of littering. It’s behavioural change that we need.