How fair is it that money intended for maintaining our waterway heritage should be spent on clearing up after litter louts? But that is what happens all too often.
You know the score: lazy, selfish people can't be bothered to go all the way to the council amenity site with their old fridge, carpet, bag of clothing, building rubble, mattress or dead dog, so what do they do with it? Why, chuck it over the wall into the canal, of course. As often as not it will sink, so it's gone. Or at least gone until some unfortunate boater goes aground on it, or picks it up on the prop.
But litter louts don't have to go to the trouble of carting large items of household waste down to the cut - small items of rubbish like a beer bottle, coke can, plastic bag or fast food container are easier to carry, and actually float on the water. Okay, litter louts drop such stuff everywhere, but when they drop them on the street, eventually a council employee will come along and pick them up. But litter floating on the canal just stays there, accumulating. And, being on water, it is much more difficult to remove. So most small items of rubbish stay there and the larger items usually get removed only when they cause problems.
Clearing up of this rubbish has to be done by British Waterways from their limited budget. Clearing up litter in other public places is normally the responsibility of the local council, but if the litter happens to end up in the canal, then BW foots the bill. Sensible? Hardly.
But there is some good news in Lancashire. Pendle Borough Council has agreed to work in partnership with BW to help clear rubbish accumulating in the 10-mile stretch of Leeds and Liverpool Canal through the borough. Area committees are to be involved in organising annual litter-picks on the canal in their districts. The council has vowed to get tough against people found depositing litter in the canal with on-the-spot fines. The council is also investigating the provision of extra dog poo bins along the towpath.
The council is not taking on the responsibility for clearing the rubbish, but it acknowledges BW's financial difficulties and is willing to get involved in steps to help. Hopefully other councils will see this as a sensible way forward, rather than just complaining to BW about the state of the waterways, so that more of BW's money can be spent on maintaining the canals.
Perhaps there should be an obligation on councils to remove rubbish from the canals in their areas. After all, it is their local residents who put the rubbish there!