The ugly face of our countryside

Used tyres dumped in a ditch on the Islandarragh Road near Moyarget.INBM14-12 205JC
Used tyres dumped in a ditch on the Islandarragh Road near Moyarget.INBM14-12 205JC

WITH tougher new European legislation on illegal dumping and litter issues in general, one would have thought that most people would be taking care not to fall foul of the law.

Far from it as these pictures demonstrate after a local cyclist alerted the Times to the shocking state of some parts of the North Antrim countryside.

The worst case was on the Fivey Road near Magherahoney where a field was strewn with household rubbish stretcheing many metres.

No one knows who did it and there is no suggestion that that the owner or the person responsible for that land caused the problem.

On the Moycraig Road, near Mosside, bags of rubbish were scattered along the roadside causing an ugly sight for the many tourists who use the route towards the Causeway.

The most damaging to the environment was on the Islandarragh Road near Moyarget where a large number of tyres were tossed into a ditch on the roadside.

Most of the rubbish is not able to be seen by passing motorists, but the cyclist who informed us was able to spot see it and said whoever did it had no thought about the environment.

Old tyres have to be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way and dealers normally impose a charge. In this case, the person or persons who dumped them cared little for the law.

Many of the councils within Northern Ireland regard the cleanliness of our environment as a low priority and some have never issued a fine to discourage litter on our streets, despite more than 50% of the public believing Northern Ireland is not a clean country.

Those are the findings of a TIDY Northern Ireland litter fine survey which also reveals that a third of councils have never taken enforcement action through the courts, and more than half of the councils have not mounted an anti litter campaign in the past twelve months.

The survey, commissioned by the Environment and Heritage Service, received responses from 24 of the 26 councils within the province, and the findings revealed huge variations from council to council in the way they deal with litter offences. The most proactive council have issued almost 3,000 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) over the past four years, while one council has failed to issue a single FPN since the introduction of the Litter Order 2004 which entitles council officers to fine offenders £50.

Similarly, the inactivity of some councils when it comes to court prosecutions is in stark contrast to their neighbouring boroughs. Eight of the 24 councils have not begun any court prosecutions under the Litter Act, and of those that have more than a third have failed on at least one occasion to receive the backing of the courts.

“There appears to be a huge variation among councils on their stance towards people who litter, and it is causing confusion among the public,” said Chief Executive of TIDY Northern Ireland Ian Cole. “In some areas you are likely to get hit with a £50 fine for dropping litter, while doing exactly the same thing in a different council borough doesn’t even get you a slap on the wrist from the authorities. If people realise they are not going to get fined for littering then there is no deterrent to prevent them from polluting our streets. If we are to clean up Northern Ireland and make it a more pleasant place to live or visit then councils need to adopt a standardised approach to the problem and make it clear to offenders that their actions will not be tolerated.”