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THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY: THE STATE OF ENGLAND'S STREETS

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Litter from fast food outlets - pavements covered in chewing gum - ...
Litter from fast food outlets - pavements covered in chewing gum -

vandalism and graffiti - fly-posting - abandoned vehicles -

fly-tipped rubbish.

The government today spelled out the key local environmental and

anti-social behaviour issues faced by our communities, and

highlighted the action it wants to see tackled with increased

urgency.

Local environmental quality minister Alun Michael was joined by Home

Office minister Hazel Blears, and Yvette Cooper of the ODPM to launch the second annual survey of the state of England's streets, carried out for Defra by environmental charity ENCAMS.

The survey, which quantifies changes in local environmental quality

over the past year and reflects the link between the state of our

public spaces and anti-social behaviour, revealed a mixed picture

including:

* A 27% reduction in dog fouling

* An increase in litter of up to 12%

* An overall improvement in recreation areas, including a record

increase in the number of Green Flags awarded

* A marked increase in chewing gum deposition, occurring on

two-thirds of all sites measured, and increasing to 94% in town

centres

* An overall improvement in coastal resorts, including an increase in

the number of Blue Flags awarded

Sites were graded on a scale of good, satisfactory, unsatisfactory,

or poor, with 40% of sites scoring good or satisfactory, 54%

unsatisfactory, and 6% poor.

Crucially, the report found that a high proportion of the

unsatisfactory sites would move into the satisfactory bracket with

simple management changes at local authority level, and without need

for additional resources.

Mr Michael welcomed the progress made, and urged local authorities

to act to bring more areas up to the satisfactory standard.

Addressing the survey's key findings, he outlined the action which

has been taken to bring about the improvements, and the action

Government now wants to see in order to take those im provements

further. He highlighted:

* Today's publicationof a government consultation on tackling

fly-tipping more effectively

* The successful ENCAMS publicity campaign to reduce dog fouling

* The creation of an action group to tackle irresponsible chewing gum

disposal, bringing together manufacturers, the Local Government

Association, Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, the

Department for Education and Skills, and others

* Development of a national initiative for tackling abandoned

vehicles

* A Voluntary Code of Practice for the Fast Food Industry, based on

successful pilots across the country which saw litter deposition buck

the national trend and fall by 20%

* Tools to support local authorities in improving the quality of

local environments, including a website which provides a single

source of information on public spaces legislation

* The power for local authorities to close urban rights of way which

foster crime

* The right for local authorities to retain fines from fixed

penalties and use the revenue for further environmental management

* The introduction of Best Value Performance Indicator BV199, a

benchmark by which local authorities can measure their performance on

maintaining public space

Mr Michael commented:

'These are things that people care about in every locality across the

country - things people talk about, that affect their sense of

well-being, and things that government, along with the local

government community, is determined to tackle more effectively. To

each of us as a constituency MP, and to councillors representing

their ward, these are important and practical issues.

'It is my strong belief that there is a continuum between the way

people treat their public spaces and the way they behave towards one

another, linking environmental issues like litter, which pull down

the feel of any public space, with anti-social behavio ur, vandalism

and violence. We cannot create sustainable communities without

ensuring that the standard of our public spaces is up to scratch.

'I am grateful to ENCAMS for the excellent work they have carried

out, and are carrying out, in the field of local environmental

quality. This robust and reliable survey gives us vital information,

enabling us to direct our strategy in a more accurate and informed

way.

'The report shows simple management changes by local authorities

could improve the quality of local environments - at no extra cost to

the taxpayer. Some local authorities have made great progress in

tackling graffiti, fly-tipping and improving public spaces. This

proves local authorities can make a positive impact in tackling

environmental menaces.

'But there is much more to do to make our parks and streets places we

can be proud of. We are already taking action to reclaim our green

spaces for the benefit of the whole community.

'The government's£89m Liveability Fund is piloting projects

in 27 local authority areas to improve the local environment, through

better public service delivery. This should ensure parks and public

spaces will be better managed and maintained and physical

improvements will be more sustainable.

'We don't have a right to clean streets unless we take responsibility

for our actions.'

Hazel Blears, minister for crime reduction, policing and community

safety at the Home Office, spoke about new measures in The

Anti-Social Behaviour Act, which received Royal Assent in November

2003, to tackle environmental crime, including:

* Banning the sale of aerosol paints to under 16s

* Making it easier to tackle noise nuisance, including closure of

noisy premises, issuing penalty notice and confiscating equipment

* Powers for local authorities to tackle fly-tipping and enforce

litter enforcement notices

Ms Blears commented:

'Fly tipping, litter and vandalism c an make our streets seem

threatening and unpleasant places to be in. They erode communal pride

and increase fear of crime. That is why we have brought in tough new

measures in the Anti-Social Behaviour Act to deal with them.

'Tackling anti-social behaviour on our city streets, such as street

drinking and begging, is also vitally important if people are to feel

safe and secure in their neighbourhoods. We will not tolerate a

situation where an unruly minority make life hell for the decent law

abiding majority.

'One in three people say that anti-social behaviour affects their

quality of life, that's why the government will continue to support

people on the front line through our TOGETHER campaign, which offers

practical help and support for those combating these problems.'

The full report is available here.

Notes

1.The aim of the Local Environmental Quality Survey of England is to

provide reliable, annualised information about the condition of

aspects of the local environment that are important to local people,

and which will inform communities and their public service bodies,

providing them with a basis for prioritising and improving local

service standards.

2.The survey builds on work carried out by ENCAMS over the past

fifteen years on consultancy projects in the UK and overseas.

Surveyors cover around 10,000 sites across England during the year,

selected to make sure that all types of social and economic

circumstance are reflected.

3.This is the second annual report, which has highlighted for the

first time trends from one year to the next.

4.The criteria on which local environments were assessed are as

follows:

* Good: Of an exceptionally high standard that is unlikely to be

maintained in all places, at all times, but should be aimed to be

achieved after an area has been serviced or a physical element has

been r eplaced or refurbished

* Satisfactory: The site being surveyed will not be free of the

environmental issue that is being reported on, however the extent to

which is it present is unlikely to be noticed by most people, or be

regarded as having a significant adverse affect on the quality of the

local environment.

* Unsatisfactory: The environmental element in question is present to

such a degree that many people will notice it, and some may regard it

as worthy of criticism.

* Poor: The environmental element in question is present to such a

degree that few people would fail to notice it, and most people would

regard it as a matter for criticism.

These broad categories are divided into four sub-categories using

Standard Quality Intervals. The aim is to show detailed variations in

overall environmental quality, and how close the standard of each

element is to rising or falling to the next category.

5.The Anti-Social Behaviour Act received Royal Assent on November 21

2003.

6.On 14 October, the government launched the Anti-Social Behaviour

Action Plan and the Together campaign. These set out what practical

help the government is giving to councils and other local agencies to

tackle anti-social behaviour.

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