3.3 Public Versus Private Land

Enforcement powers are given to the local authority through legislation. We will discuss the legislation later in the course but it is important to first understand why we are enforcing these offences. The powers have been given to the local authority to enforce this legislation in their area. For example, a litter authority is a local authority that is responsible for the litter within its borders. When we talk about responsibility, we mean responsible for cleaning up litter and enforcing litter.
Many of you will now be thinking that local authorities do not clean up litter on private land and that is correct, local authorities do only clean up on their own land. However, when it comes to enforcement, they are responsible for everywhere within their borders. The aim of enforcement is to stop something that is happening from happening so how could it be illegal to drop something on a high street and not on Asda car park?
On patrols at some point whether that will be by an offender or just by a passer-by, you will be told, ‘you can’t issue on here as its private land’.
There is a difference to privately owned land and private dwellings. Most of the offences we deal with make an offence illegal when the offence has happened on land that is ‘open to the public’. McDonald’s, Asda and Tesco are privately owned, but they are open to the public. That means they are enforceable.
Your house, that the public do not have a right to access to, is not enforceable.
The second confusion around private land is the belief that we need the landowner’s consent, we do not legally, however it is considered courtesy to inform them that we will be enforcing. It can be considered a defence in law if you have the landowner’s permission to say drop litter or not pick up a dog foul. With regards to permission this should be prior to an offence not after.
Private landowners may ask us not to patrol their land, and as councils like to keep a good relationship with landowners, if they supply us with written confirmation that they do not wish us to patrol there then we will stop. We do try to work with local businesses as we have a common objective and would rather work with them than against them.