Headlines: February 23rd, 2005

The government has stressed the need to stamp out low level environmental crime before those responsible go on to commit more serious offences, and it believes the measures in the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill will help in this.Local environmental quality minister Alun Michael visited the People and Places conference in Birmingham, organised by campaign group Keep Britain Tidy, to set out his vision of cleaner, safer communities.

He paid tribute to local authorities that had to deal with low level environmental crime, such as fly tipping and graffiti, every day. The offences, he said, added to a community’s neglect and local people’s unease. “People who cause environmental crime often graduate to more serious offending so it’s important to stamp out this activity and deter this behaviour before it escalates,” he said.

The annual conference offered a range of organisations, including local councils, a chance to share their experiences in tackling the problems. Mr. Michael’s visit followed the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill being given its third reading in the House of Commons. The Bill will give local authorities and the Environment Agency new powers to deal withn a range of environmental crime and anti-social behaviour.

Mr. Michael said the latest survey on local environmental quality showed that there had been a small improvement in the state of streets in England but more needed to be done and this could only be achieved if the government and local councils worked together. The measures in the Bill would be an important landmark in the campaign to make streets cleaner, safer and greener.

Alan Woods, the chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, said the Bill tapped into public concern and it would be popular as it would come down hard on those who littered, flyposted or scrawled graffiti.