The responsibility of the removal of litter, refuse and detritus from roads falls to Highways England, and Local Authorities.


Highways England has an area of operations which is split into six regions in England these are known as ‘strategic highways companies’. Strategic highways companies are granted a Design Build Finance and Operate (DBFO) contract in order to undertake road clearing and maintenance work all in one. Highways England is responsible for the clearing and cleaning of motorways (so-called ‘special roads’) due to the transfer of responsibility from the Secretary of State, and for a small number of other trunk roads which have been transferred from local authorities. Highways England, however, is not designated as being able to enforce the criminal offence of littering. Local authorities are required to enforce litter offences on roads in their areas. Link to HE map

Other Roads

Section 86(9) of the EPA 1990 designates responsibility for cleaning other roads to the district & borough councils (in Greater London to the council of the London borough or the Common Council of the City of London; in Wales to the county or borough council and for the Isles of Scilly to the Council). Many busy ‘trunk roads’ (generally known as ‘A’ roads or ‘all-purpose trunk roads’) will be, therefore, the responsibility of the local (district or Borough) authority as well as all minor roads. On most council websites it is possible to find lists of streets in towns which they are responsible for cleaning and when they clean them. Some but very few of the larger roads ae the responsibility of the County Council.


UK legislation that can be applied for the clearance and/or enforcement against littering of roads, highways and verges is

  • Environmental Protection Act 1990
  • Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005
  • Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014
  • The Littering from Vehicles Outside London (Keepers: Civil Penalties) Regulations 2018 The litter authority ‘must have reason to believe that a littering offence has been committed in respect of the vehicle on the authority’s land’. The amount of the fixed penalty is specified by the local authority. If no amount is specified, it is £100. If the fine is not paid within the penalty payment period, it increases by 100%.
  • Other Legislation . . 2010 Waste (Wales) Measure, 2015 Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act

Responsibility for Clearance & Enforcement

  • Councils: Section 89(1) of the EPA 1990 places a duty on certain bodies to ensure that land, for which they are responsible, is, so far as is practicable, kept clear of litter and refuse. There are many bodies listed, including but not limited to County Councils, District and Borough Councils and Parish Councils.
    • County Councils: Although there is a duty on County Councils in practice, however, District and Borough Councils clear litter from relevant land.
    • District & Borough Councils: District and borough councils clear litter from relevant land which includes highways, this includes A roads, trunk roads, minor roads and housing estate roads. Under s87 of the EPA 1990, district and borough councils are also able to issue FPNs for littering. Section 88A of the EPA has been brought in to force in England. This is where if litter is dropped from a car, the registered keeper of that vehicle can be fined – there is no need to establish exactly who the culprit is. But as the exact offender cannot be established this attract the lesser charge of a ‘civil penalty’ not a criminal charge. The registered keeper/owner of the vehicle would receive a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) – this doesn’t apply to taxis.
  • Parish Councils: Under Section 88(9)(f) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, a parish council is recognised as a ‘litter authority’ which can issue FPNs for littering. In practice, parish councils are unaware that they have the power to issue FPNs. However, under the Environmental Offences (Fixed Penalties) (Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2007 anyone authorised by a parish council to issue FPNs must have completed a course by a provider approved of by the Secretary of State (typically such courses are provided by the Keep Britain Tidy Network).
  • Private Landowners: There are few duties on private landowners to clear litter from private roads unless there are restrictive covenants on the land. If a private property allows a build-up of litter to such an extent that it is undesirable or a health hazard to others a Community Protection Notice can be issued under the Anti-Social Crime and Policing Act 2014
  • Highways England has a responsibility to ensure Motorways and some large A roads are cleared of litter, however Highways England doesn’t have the ability to enforce against littering from vehicles, the Local Authority in whose district the road falls has that responsibility.
  • Environment Agency has no specific duties to clear litter
  • Volunteers: there is no legal obligation on Volunteers to clear litter and they don’t have any enforcement powers. Voluntary Litter picking on roads or verges is not encouraged by any of the responsible authorities due to the Health and Safety implications.
Two CPRE local group members picking litter at a CPRE event
Back to Litter on land
Volunteers on litter pick walking away from camera with sacks of litter
Redress for members of the public
A young woman looks to the camera as she holds a litter picker and rubbish bag
Read the full report