North Yorkshire councils have been accused of fostering the development of “corridors of shame” by failing to clear roadside litter.
A meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s Richmond constituency committee heard the cleanliness of many verges, ranging from the A1(M) to country lanes, branded “an absolute disgrace”.
The meeting was told while there appeared to be a rising tide of takeaway wrappers and human waste being thrown from vehicles, some roadsides in the county had not been cleared for at least 15 years by district and borough councils, despite them having a statutory responsibility to clear it.
Members were told the main challenge to clearing roadside litter related to safety.
Amanda Dyson, Richmondshire District Council’s waste and street scene manager, said the authority was constrained by safety issues and having to work when Highways England was carrying out road repairs.
She said as safety rules meant single carriageway A-roads could only be cleaned at night, the cleaning was dependent on council staff volunteering to work night shifts to deal with often unpleasant litter, such as bottles of urine.
Ms Dyson said: “We have calculated there could be huge costs involved if we were to do this.”
Chris Brown, a parish councillor from Newsham, close to the A66, said while Richmondshire council had said it was unable to clear some areas due to resources and safety issues, Highways England had declined to accept responsibility for cleaning the A66, as it has for other major roads elsewhere, before suggesting the Department for Transport (DfT) could resolve the issue.
Members were told the DfT had stated cleaning roadside litter was not its responsibility and referred campaigners to the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Defra had simply replied to Coun Brown that there was unlikely to be any significant change to the bodies responsible for clearing roadside litter for the foreseeable future, the meeting heard.
Coun Brown said he had no confidence senior council officers were determined to make an immediate difference, adding: “Do local residents and people who travel through the area continue to have to travel through what I call the corridor of shame? It looks like the side of a landfill tip in parts.”
The meeting heard councillors call for a county-wide strategy and action, saying the roadsides of North Yorkshire were poor in comparison with those in neighbouring council areas such as County Durham.
Bedale councillor John Weighell said: “It is a massive problem that’s got to be tackled, but as roads are more and more busy it becomes almost an impossible task to ask anyone to do.”
County council deputy leader Councillor Gareth Dadd said while the authority’s executive was currently restricted to raising roadside litter concerns with the district and borough councils responsible for clearing it, it was “an issue that could be looked at with a little more depth and seriousness” by the unitary North Yorkshire Council after it is launched in May 2023.
He added: “As with any aspiration or desire it will come with a price tag, and that will have to go into the mix with the other priorities and challenges everybody has.”