This news report, entitled Burden of a million wrecks, was published in the Observer on 8 May 1966.
More than a million vehicles are abandoned each year in Britain’s streets and on waste land.
The Greater London Council is taking over the task of dealing with the 25,000 left derelict in London’s streets alone. “At present the job belongs to individual boroughs, who use various disposal methods,” a spokesman said.
The GLC and the home counties may make use of the £1million American-developed car-smashing plant announced last week. Its backers are looking for a 20-acre site near London so that they can start operating next summer. Three similar machines are operating in America. Only a few councils – like Croydon and Bristol – have adequate equipment to deal with the wrecks. The one in Bristol – called “Chip Chop Charlie” – deals with 2,000 cars a year and costs over £5,000.
Mr Alan Shellcross, of Bristol’s Transport Office, said their plant would not make a profit for some years. “But we are keeping the cars off the road, at no extra cost to the ratepayer.” Other councils claim they cannot afford the breaking-up equipment and don’t get enough vehicles to make a scrapping operation pay. But, as one council spokesman said: “The real cost and major difficulty in dealing with abandoned cars is the vast administrative problem involved. We have to try to trace each car owner and check that no hire-purchase payments are still owing. One private agency does nothing but check on this sort of thing for us. There have been cases where councils were sued by hire-purchase dealers because they disposed of the car before full payments had been made.”
Most councils sell or give the wrecks to scrap-iron dealers. Sometimes, however, they have to pay the dealer to take them away. Many of the car owners are eventually taken to court, which presents further difficulties for the local authorities.
The GLC admits: “We are still not sure whether we are going to cope. The number of cars abandoned each year increases dramatically and no one really has the administration or equipment to deal with the problem efficiently. This new plant may solve our difficulties, but we shall still have the job of transporting old wrecks to the plant.”
Southampton Corporation is considering buying its own small plant and is asking neighbouring authorities to co-operate.