Richmondshire District Council says it will explore options to clear rubbish beside a trunk road dubbed the “corridor of shame” after being accused of overlooking it for 15 years and an agreed initiative to clean up the area’s verges.
The authority’s long-serving chief executive Tony Clark told a full meeting of the authority while one stretch of the A66 had been cleansed last year, safety concerns had previously impeded action on other areas of the major A1(M) to M6 route in North Yorkshire.
Mr Clark was responding after Councillor Angus Thompson related how residents had dubbed a stretch of the single carriageway of the A66, near Browson Bank and the junction for Dalton, “the corridor of shame” as it reflected badly on both the local authority and Rishi Sunak’s Richmond constituency.
Coun Thompson told the meeting if the most littered 100-metre section was cleaned this year “at least the present administration would be seen to be making some progress to fulfilling their obligation”.
The call comes a month after a North Yorkshire County Council meeting heard the concerns were widespread and a Newsham parish councillor saying he had no confidence senior council officers were determined to make an immediate difference.
Coun Thompson added: “Richmondshire District Council has a statutory obligation to cleanse single carriageway sections but freely admit that certain stretches have not been cleansed robustly for some 15 years.
“Whilst it pains me to say so, the section of the A66 within County Durham is much cleaner in contrast to the disgraceful levels of litter which Richmondshire council has allowed to accumulate. ”
The authority’s deputy leader, Councillor Helen Grant, replied that she was “very happy to support” what Coun Thompson had said.
The meeting also heard the complaints had surfaced about three years after authority agreed to lead a “tidy up Richmondshire” initiative, where the council would “target all the verges that we could”, using parish council and national park volunteers.
Councillor Stuart Parsons said the council had got as far as buying equipment for the tidy-up drive, but it had not been used due to the pandemic.
He said: “It would be helpful if you could get that full initiative up and running. It’s not just ourselves, it’s also our residents and parishes which will get to work and help clear their areas and at least leave us in a cleaner position to monitor and actually take action.”
Mr Clarke said the reason the litter had not been cleared was “not down to a lack of willingness”.
He said: “I believe there has been some issues over health and safety. Historically it has required a road closure to do the picking. Whether there’s ways round that is something that we will continue to explore.”
Following the meeting, Colin Dales, Richmondshire council’s corporate director, said it would continue to work with Highways England to keep the route cleansed, but added clearing the single carriageway sections was “not straightforward and is not a quick fix”.
He said the council had worked closely with Newsham Parish Council, which serves the A66 area, to highlight issues and push for change at a national and strategic level.
Mr Dales said: “Cleansing of the A66 and other routes in and around our district is a priority for Richmondshire District Council – and for our Waste and Street Scene Team – and a lot of time and energy is put into this element of the service.
“However, the 13.9 miles of the A66 within the council’s boundary present particular difficulties. The council is responsible for cleansing this length of the highway which is managed by Highways England. Cleansing such a busy stretch of road brings many challenges – not least the health and safety of the teams undertaking the cleansing, the associated need to partially close the highway to keep them safe and the priority of Highways England to minimise disruption to the travelling public – avoiding closures where possible.
“We work closely with our local Highways England colleagues so that any advanced notice of planned closures can be taken advantage. This occurred last year when a number of our teams cleansed a stretch of the A66 during a planned road closure. But we need time to mobilise our teams and re-schedule other cleansing programmes to make this happen.
“Pro-active closures of the highway for the sole purpose of cleansing are prohibitively expensive for a small district such as ours – road closure management costs, illumination costs – as the work will usually happen at night – and the costs of introducing shift work for our teams. These costs make our current approach of targeting campaigns to dove tail with planned closures the most effective option.”