Published: 00:01, 16 September 2016
Wardens handed out 113 fines in just three days after a new crackdown on litter-droppers in Ashford town centre was introduced.
Ashford Borough Council launched the new 12-month trial scheme with private company Kingdom last week to tackle issues of littering across the borough.
Officers from Kingdom can issue a £75 on-the-spot fine to people caught deliberately dropping litter or not clearing up after their pets.
The fixed penalty notices will not carry a reduction in cost for an early payment.
The council will take £28.50 from each fine while Kingdom will take £46.50.
An Ashford council spokesman said: “Officers from Kingdom began patrolling Ashford town centre on Wednesday, September 7. From September 7 to September 9, a total of 113 fixed penalty notices were issued and approximately 15 have been paid.
“Kingdom used these initial three days to undertake some important staff training exercises, meaning more officers than normal were on duty at this time.
“From now on there will be four officers patrolling across the borough.
“The litter enforcement campaign is not about making money.
“It’s about trying to stop people littering, and improving the environment to make Ashford a cleaner and tidier place.
“The project is likely to be cost-neutral, but if any profits are made they will be pushed back into supporting other environmental projects within the council, including additional dog warden patrols and equipment for litter education and enforcement campaigns.”
Disgruntled Ashford residents contacted the Kentish Express and took to social media to voice their concerns after being fined.
Sean Maddocks, whose partner was fined during the first week of the new scheme, said: “My partner, Joanne Worrall, was fined £75 for apparently dropping a roll-up butt while standing outside the Ashford International station with myself.
“My partner was fined £75 with no first warning or anything, even though she pleaded that it was her birthday, and would not do it again.
“Myself and my partner were both horrified when we were told it was £75. £25 or £30 is reasonable and would not have been a problem, but £75 – I don’t see how this cost could be justified.
“When I asked where we could discard cigarette ends as there were no bins, and if there were any to show me where, I was told I should keep them in my pocket.
“We are considering not paying the fine and having our day in court as we and many others we have spoken to find the fine an extortionate joke.
“Upon returning home and doing a little research I was absolutely disgusted to find more than half of the money fined will actually be going to a private company and only a small percentage will even be going to the council.”
Hari, from Ashford, said that he disposed of a cigarette butt in his workplace private car park in Dover Place, but was fined by the warden. He said: “I didn’t throw it on the road. I told them exactly where I threw it. They told me it was the wind that blew it away. If the wind blew it away, other cigarettes might blow away. Why only mine?”
Hari said that the private car park is maintained by his company: “We sweep it every day and throw it in the bin. I paid it but I wasn’t happy. It is not right. £75 is too much.”
Sarah Downs said: “I was approached by a man outside Ashford International station.
“He accused me of dropping a cigarette butt on the ground. He claimed he had it on camera. I then showed him I still had the cigarette end, I never drop them on the floor. He then said it was a new wave in Ashford to tackle littering.
“He lectured me as though I were guilty still and then went on his way. He was very rude and abrupt, which considering I had done nothing wrong was very unnecessary. They seem too eager to catch people whether we’re guilty or not.”
The Environmental Protection Act 1990 rules that leaving litter is an offence, and this was extended by the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005.
Local authorities can issue fixed penalty notices under Section 88 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
While there are no formal appeal grounds for fixed penalty notices, cases can be heard in a magistrates’ court, but this can lead to a maximum penalty of £2,500 if imposed.
The cost and effectiveness of the Ashford council project will be analysed after the trial period has ended.
The council previously introduced the cartoon mascot Sir Litternot in 2014 as a campaign against littering, which it paid Frenzy Creative, from Manchester, £1,244 to make.