Environment Minister Jim Knight took a tour of Skipton this afternoon as the Government launches yet another crackdown on littering and anti-social behaviour.
Mr Knight met representatives of the Town Council and was shown first-hand the environmental 'quality of life' issues that local authorities up and down the country have to deal with, but which are not always obvious in popular Dales market towns such as Skipton.
Minister in Skipton to launch
In London, Environment Secretary, Margaret Beckett, launched the nationwide clampdown on litter as part of a package of new powers for local authorities.
The Government is hoping that new measures under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act, which come into force on April 6, will see local authorities better equipped to combat litter in terms of both prevention and penalties.
As well as the power to increase fines from £50 to £80, from next week local authorities can also require home-owners to clear their land of litter; stop people handing out flyers and leaflets in designated areas; and fine shops selling take-away food if they refuse to clear up litter outside their premises.
Councils will also have powers to silence burglar alarms within 20 minutes and put in place new dog control orders.
"For too long anti-social and criminal behaviour has taken place in our alleyways and footpaths, breeding fear and creating no-go zones for local residents. No one should have to put up with this.
"I have seen first hand how gating schemes have made a massive difference to local communities and their way of life. These new improved powers being introduced through the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act will allow local authorities to react quicker in known problem areas - locking the gates on anti-social behaviour."
Litter along Skipton roadside
Jim Knight is among a number of Defra Ministers today visiting local authorities to talk about how the new powers will be used on the ground.
"Everyone has a responsibility in maintaining the cleanliness of their neighbourhood - from thinking twice about dropping your chewing gum, to ensuring you put your sandwich wrapper in the bin," he said.
"And whilst the majority of people take this responsibility seriously, there is a minority who don't.
"Through the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act, we have now given local authorities the powers to make sure this selfish minority are punished swiftly."
Mrs Beckett said the Act demonstrated a Government-wide commitment to improving local environment quality - and that now was the time for similar commitment from local authorities.
"People want clean, safe and quiet neighbourhoods. As such, their view of how well their local council is performing is strongly influenced by how effectively it manages the local environment.
"That's why local authorities asked for new powers to help them improve their neighbourhoods and punish offenders. And that's why Government has delivered the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act.
"Therefore, in the coming 12 months we will expect to see a concerted effort by all councils to use their new powers easily, extensively and effectively."
- Later this year, Defra is set to begin its most detailed ever survey of local environment quality which will be used to set what the Department are calling "new, challenging standards". Given the extra powers to cut litter at its source, Mrs Beckett said she wanted this to be the catalyst for a major clampdown on dirty neighbourhoods.