Is litter a problem on Cambs streets?

A country-wide campaign started on Wednesday aimed at tackling rubbish being dropped and fly-tipped on our streets. A report suggests Huntingdonshire is unsatisfactory when it comes to the litter problems. But is this really the case? ANGELA SINGER tak

A country-wide campaign started on Wednesday aimed at tackling rubbish being dropped and fly-tipped on our streets. A report suggests Huntingdonshire is "unsatisfactory" when it comes to the litter problems. But is this really the case? ANGELA SINGER takes a look.

HOW rubbish is your street? Or rather how much rubbish is on it - and what do you see on your way to work or your drive into town?

A study published by the group Encams (formerly Keep Britain Tidy) - the environmental campaigns section of Defra, the department for Farming and Rural Affairs - has found Huntingdonshire "unsatisfactory" when it comes to picking up litter and fallen leaves.

The study, a spot check on a single day, is being used by The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) to raise awareness of how we treat our streets.

The CPRE's president Bill Bryson, the American born author, is the public face of the Stop the Drop campaign which aims to highlight the impact litter and fly-tipping has across England, and give people the campaigning tools to demand action.

The group is urging people to lobby the local authority and ask what they are doing to clean up litter and fly-tipping in your area.

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It claims that 107 of 174 of local authorities surveyed (61.5 per cent) were rated 'unsatisfactory' or 'poor' on overall levels of litter.

In Huntingdonshire there are some problems with litter. But is this the problem of Huntingdonshire District Council not clearing it up, or a problem simply caused by mindless idiots who are too lazy to dispose of rubbish in a suitable manner. It could also be argued that companies should be responsible for litter created by their customers.

David Williams, who lives in Upwood, said he regularly has to call the council to clear away rubbish.

He told The Hunts Post that he could see a "rising tide" of rubbish alongside the district's rural roads as he drove from his home into Huntingdon.

"My wife and I continually ring the council to clear various local roads of take-away food containers and discarded supermarket bags," he said.

"The district council is very good at clearing the rubbish away. They give you a date and they stick to it - but they don't go far off the beaten track and once the rubbish is cleared, the same disgusting stuff is back again shortly afterwards.

"We rarely see the offenders - who is it who has no thought for the environment?"

Mr Williams said he had tried to track down the source of the problem.

"We have rung McDonalds. They will only take responsibility for people eating on their premises. Is that sufficient?

"Their packaging is a major part of the problem and they should do more to help."

McDonalds says it has schemes to help encourage recycling. The fast food giant said it has pilot projects to turn recycle rubbish and create energy.

These projects are have yet to reach Huntingdonshire.

Mr Williams believe packaging should be marked with comments about how to dispose of it.

He said: "How many council employees does it take to keep our roads free of litter? Is the answer to have more on-the-spot fines?

"We have some lovely countryside in Cambridgeshire spoiled by the thoughtlessness of a few and unless public awareness is raised to care for the environment, it will get steadily worse."

Matthew Freemantle, team leader of the street cleansing department cleaning with 12 years experience has a different view. His team are out on the towns from 6.30am.

"We want the streets to be clean before people get to work. There is a crew of three people in Huntingdon, St Neots and St Ives and others in Godmanchester and Ramsey. We are in the top 20 per cent for clean towns, sometimes in the top 10."

However, the Encams survey suggests our district has problems. It claims Huntingdonshire is unsatisfactory when it comes to litter and detritus - a grade which the report says means low standards are present in a greater number of places than is acceptable.

Looking further into the survey the problems become fairly minimal and scores Huntingdonshire as good in three others: graffiti, flyposting and flytipping.

A spokesman for HDC said: "Surveys of this kind only represent a snapshot taken on a particular day.

"So if the road had just been gritted because it is frosty, there will be lots of grit on the road. We want to point out that the survey showed we scored 'good' for three out the five sections and although we gained 'unsatisfactory' for litter - this was only marginally so - perhaps they picked up a discarded packet of cigarettes.

"Overall, we are satisfied that we meet good standards of cleansing in our district. If there is rubbish around we react very quickly to that and we are out quickly to clear it up. "

The CPRE's campaign wants to people to complain about litter and to highlight how anti-social dropping rubbish can be.

Members want people to get involved with the online community and organise clean-up drives and awareness activities.

The CPRE also highlights a need for more councils to fine people who drop litter.

Mr Bryson said: "The bodies responsible for cleaning up litter and fly-tipping admit it is getting worse and many local authorities remain magnificently relaxed when it comes to doing anything about it.

"The total sum of fines for littering collected nationally last year was just slightly over £1.5 million, or about one-fifteenth of what the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea collects annually in parking fines."

HDC does not currently issue on the sport fines for littering, while neighbouring Peterborough does.

However, it may be time to get tough on the people who casually drop litter in the streets or throw their rubbish from a car window.

INFORMATION: What do you think? Is it time to introduce on the spot fines? Write to The Hunts Post, 30 High Street, Huntingdon PE29 3TB or email