FEARS of a massive outbreak of car dumping across Hertfordshire have been sparked by a Government proposal.

Under new plans that follow a European Union (EU) directive, the most recent owner of a vehicle will be forced to to pay for its disposal.

If adopted, the ruling would spell disaster for Watford and the county, according to the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

Eastern region director Mr Paul Long said: "This can only lead to wholesale dumping of ancient, clapped-out cars.

"Burned out and abandoned vehicles already despoil roads, verges, fields and woodland all over the Hertfordshire countryside.

"If this ruling goes through it can only make matters ten times worse.

"Most of the oldest cars and therefore the cheapest are owned by the poorest members of society who are the least able to meet the cost of disposal.

"With costs estimated to be between £20 and £100 a time, it is inevitable when these cars are set to fail their last MOT test, their owners will dispose of them by driving to the nearest piece of open space and leaving them."

Currently, it is the responsibility of the owner of the land where the car is abandoned to dispose of it.

Watford police, who receive numerous calls about abandoned cars, greeted the news with anxiety.

A police spokesman said: "Any further increase in the number of abandoned vehicles would obviously cause us, and other agencies, concern."

Watford Council said it would be forced to comply with the rule if it became national legislation but said the CLA had been premature in commenting on the EU edict.

A council spokesman said: "We encourage anyone who thinks a car might have been abandoned to contact us on 01923 252221."

June 21, 2002 14:30