Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:37 pm on 10th January 2005.

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Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 4:37 pm, 10th January 2005

Yes, I do. The issue that my hon. Friend and others have identified reflects the concerns of their contacts in local communities. Within the farming community, for example, there is widespread concern about the impact of some of those problems, and he is mindful of that.

The Bill requires crime and disorder reduction partnerships to tackle environmental crime where it is a priority in their area. That is something that the best partnerships are already doing, but others have been slower to recognise the evidence of the impact of such crime and to take action.

I should say at once that we do not want to be prescriptive about the strategies that those partnerships are required to develop. Where environmental crime is not much of a problem, we do not demand that it feature in a strategy—the whole point of the partnership approach set out in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 is to tackle offending as it affects individual communities—but where local environments are degraded, and especially where antisocial behaviour has taken root, we do expect local partnerships to tackle the problem robustly. Our approach, which has been strongly endorsed by senior police representatives, should ensure that local partnerships consider all the issues leading to crime and disorder in their communities, including environmental crime. To help them do so, we have drawn on the results of our consultation to give greater powers and greater flexibility to authorities and agencies to tackle such problems.

For example, alleyways giving rear access to properties are common in our towns and cities. Sadly, many provide opportunities for crime and are a magnet for antisocial behaviour. We plan to address the problem of nuisance alleyways by enabling local authorities to gate them more easily. This will allow local authorities for the first time to gate all alleyways that provide a haven for crime and antisocial behaviour, but it will also allow greater flexibility to make gating reversible, should local conditions improve or local needs change.