New fixed penalty rates to clean up public’s act

NEW laws giving Larne council additional powers to tackle a wide range of environmental crimes have come into effect this week.

The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (NI) 2011 allows local authorities to impose increased penalties for offences such as littering, dog fouling, fly posting, graffiti, noise pollution, abandoned vehicles and nuisance parking.

The Act gives councils the opportunity to set the rate of fixed penalties, and Larne council has opted to set the highest possible amount for each offence. It has also chosen to offer offenders a reduced penalty if the fine is paid within a certain time.

Anyone who is detected committing an offence under a dog control order - such as fouling, not keeping a dog on a lead, or taking a dog onto excluded land - will receive a fine of £80, or a reduced amount of £50. The same rates will apply to anyone caught littering, fly posting or graffiting.

The penalty for abandoning a vehicle will be £200, with a reduced rate of £120, and the fine for nuisance parking (which includes exposing a vehicle for sale on a road) is £100, with a reduced rate of £60.

For failing to comply with litter clearing or street litter control notices, offenders will be fined £110, or £75 at the reduced rate.

The fine for exceeding permitted noise limits has also been set at £110, or £75 reduced rate, while the rate for exceeding noise levels at a licensed premises will be £500.

Fixed penalties must be paid within 14 days, and the reduced rate is available for up to 10 days.

All the fixed penalties came into effect this week, except those that require dog control orders. These will not become effective until after a public consultation has been held.

Director of environmental services for Larne council, Philip Thompson said that while enforcement would be “robust”, he added that it would also be “proportionate to the offence”.

He told the Times: “Where we come across first offenders an informal approach is usually taken where people are informed of the powers and options available to council to resolve issues for the benefit of the safety, health and environment of our community. Where co-operation does not happen, the issue of a fixed penalty would be the next progression in the enforcement response.”