Capital gets dirtier as some litter types increase

London is the dirtiest place in Britain, according to the third Local Environmental Quality Survey of England, unveiled at the Delivering Sustainable Communities Summit this week.

Secretary of State for the Environment Margaret Beckett said that the wide-ranging survey carried out by environmental campaign group EnCams showed the state of streets in the UK was improving, but there was still much to do to make them cleaner.

The survey measured the quality of local environments around England and showed that, overall, the number of clean areas had increased with nearly half of the places surveyed considered to be good or satisfactory. Only 4% of the areas were rated as poor.

However, the amount of certain types of rubbish littering the streets has increased, with sweet wrappers and packaging from snacks both up by around 19%, while dumped drink cans were up by over a third.

Parks, picnic areas, rural roads and leafy-lane housing estates were the cleanest, while high density neighbourhoods were the dirtiest, making London the worst despite the hard work of its local authorities.

"This survey provides important evidence showing where clean-up action is needed and where resources should be targeted," Ms Beckett stated. "I'm pleased the overall picture has improved in last year but more can be done by central government and local authorities within existing resources."

The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill currently being considered by Parliament were really important, she added, and would help to give local authorities the tools they needed to stamp out littering and other anti-social behaviour.

Deputy chair of the LGA's environment board, Cllr Keith Ross said he was pleased with the results of the survey, but stated that the key to the problem was still coming down harder on litter louts and environmental criminals, rather than constantly tidying up after them.

He also said councils welcomed the stronger powers proposed in the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill, especially at a time when public expectations about tackling local environmental problems such as fly tipping, littering and dog fouling were at a premium.

"Local councils have been working hard to clean up local environments. This investment is now paying off with noticeably cleaner streets and public spaces, in spite of more people eating on the go and waste levels rising by 3% a year," Cllr Ross said.

"But we will continue to lobby government for more investment into education and awareness campaigns to change littering behaviour, which is too common in this country. A combination of education and tougher action against these people is the key to long-term improvements in local environmental quality."

By Jane Kettle


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