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Willow Brook litter reduction

Fly-tipping is an ongoing problem in Leicester's Willow Brook. We undertook a project in the Willow Brook area to increase awareness, change community behaviour and improve the environment.

Why is littering and fly tipping an issue?

Litter and fly-tipping lead to pollution of our watercourses, which harms wildlife, damages the environment and can cause blockages that could increase the risk of flooding in the area.

Also, any litter entering the River Soar or any of its tributaries - such as the Willow Brook - eventually enters the sea, and becomes part of the global environmental challenge.

It is important that we all play our part to protect the environment and dispose of litter and waste correctly, using bins, recycling centres and other waste disposal services provided.

Where is the Willow Brook?

The Willow Brook is located in the North-East part of Leicester and flows through the densely populated areas of Belgrave and North Evington, where many houses and businesses back onto it. It joins the Grand Union Canal at Abbey Park before joining the River Soar.

For this project we focused on a 2km section of the Willow Brook upstream of the Grand Union Canal.

What was the aim of the project?

The aim of the project was to:

  • Improve awareness of watercourses and the impacts of littering and fly-tipping
  • Improve our understanding on the factors that lead to littering and fly-tipping in the area
  • Make residents and businesses aware of the correct way to dispose of litter and waste and how to report pollution and fly-tipping
  • Take appropriate enforcement action against any perpetrators

What did the project involve?

The project ran from November 2021 - June 2023 and was undertaken in two parts:

  1. Education and Awareness Programme – handing out leaflets, erection of posters and used social media (Twitter and Facebook). This was accompanied by a Door-to-Door survey covering approximately 400 residential and business properties along the Willow Brook. Local Councillors, the Canal and Rivers Trust, the Environment Agency, Red Circle Angling Club and multiple departments at Leicester City Council all took part in this.
  2. Monitoring and Enforcement – Areas identified as littering or fly-tipping hotspots from the survey were patrolled more frequently during the duration of the project. A CCTV camera was installed for enforcement purposes and perpetrators were fined, where sufficient evidence was collected.

The leaflet can be downloaded below and is available in multiple languages.

What were the key findings from the door-to-door survey?

Most of the residents who responded were females and most of the respondents to the survey were of Asian and British Asian ethnicity. With most residents who responded being over the age of 66 or older.

Of the residents that responded 47% were homeowners and 44% were tenants. With the remaining 9% being of other classifications.

Businesses that took part in the survey were mainly textile garages (workshop) and manufacturing businesses, of which 97% were small to medium enterprises (known as SME’s).

The most reported litter in the Willow Brook area were metals (24% residents and 26% businesses), plastics (27% residents and 17% businesses), takeaway packaging (18% residents and 20% businesses), large furniture (20% residents only), fabrics and textiles (11% businesses only) etc.

The general perception was that:

  • There is litter issue in the Willow Brook area.
  • People litter in areas where there is already litter.
  • Littering and fly-tipping are crimes, but most were not aware of the fines associated with these crimes.
  • Litter and fly-tipping causes harm to wildlife and pollution of watercourses. But most were not aware that litter and fly-tipping can cause blockages and flooding in watercourses.
  • The Willow Brook is considered a sewer because of its largely concrete construction instead of a watercourse and so people were more likely to litter or fly-tip directly into the Willow Brook.
  • The waste management services in the area have been reduced and this has made it harder for some residents to dispose of waste. And this could be a factor in the increased littering and fly tipping in the area.

As part of the survey, respondents were made aware of:

What was successful about the project?

This section summarises the successes from each element of the project:

1. Educational and awareness programme

The door-to-door survey is considered a success because residential and business response rates were 35% and 64% respectively, which is significantly higher than the national average (between 5% to 20%). Demonstrating that awareness and education in the area has improved. Part of the success of the survey was due to its contents being communicated to respondents in their preferred languages, where an officer could speak that language.  

2. Monitoring and enforcement

Monitoring of the area using the CCTV camera and increased patrols led to legal notices being served on properties where there was evidence of fly-tipping was taking place.

3. Project as a whole

As a result of our press release, the project was covered by ITV Central news on the first day of the Door-to-Door survey and an article was published in the Leicester Mercury.


There were several challenges experienced during the project and these are summarised below:

  1. There are many languages spoken in the Willow Brook area and those taking part in the Door-to-Door survey tried to speak in the respondent’s preferred language. This was not always possible and led to some language difficulties. As a result, the leaflets were published in the most common languages used in the area (English, Gujarati, Hindi, Polish, Punjabi, Somali and Urdu). These are available for download below.
  2. Technical words often had to be simplified to correctly communicate the contents of the Survey. As a result, a plain English approach was taken. For example, changing fly-tipping to rubbish
  3. The misconception of what a watercourse is and the responsibilities of residents and businesses to protect and maintain our watercourses.
  4. There was limited understanding of how to correctly dispose of waste and the services that are available to residents and businesses to correctly dispose of waste.
  5. The survey was text based and this led to some language difficulties. Officers found that it was easier to explain to some respondents using a combination of text, pictures and infographics.


Due to the project’s success, we are exploring how similar projects can be applied to other watercourses within the city of Leicester.