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UK government has failed to stop the hand car wash epidemic

PRA 26/06/2018

“It is extraordinary that we are virtually the only EU country where illegal hand car washing has proliferated over the last ten years to the extent seen across the UK.  This must result from the failure of key agencies to enforce their own regulations”, said Car Wash Association Chairman, Brian Madderson, giving evidence in Parliament today.

There are now an estimated twelve to fifteen thousand hand car washes in the UK and ninety per cent plus are unregulated.  “It would help if HMRC were to conduct a study into their whereabouts as their tax evasion is depriving the Exchequer of millions of pounds of revenue every year”, added Mr Madderson.

Giving evidence this morning to the Environmental Audit Committee, Mr Madderson said you could often see the signs of an illegal facility:

“The trade effluent is often just seen flowing over the concrete or tarmac and onto adjacent main roads...sign of poor housekeeping... signs of poor safety clothing for people who are doing the work and ... it is a cash only environment, and that therefore leads onto a number of likely criminal activities including the sale of illicit drugs on the site, the sale of tobacco, and even in one case prostitution services.”

The committee also heard evidence that hand car wash companies:

  • dodge planning permission to operate without a change of use to a hand car wash
  • do not link up to the foul sewer
  • rarely go to the water authority or environment agency for trade effluent permits

Mr Madderson said, “England should introduce the successful General Binding Rules that currently apply to Scotland, where there are far fewer non-compliant hand car washes”:

“Adoption of the General Binding Rules procedure would make it much easier for the Environment Agency to go round and start enforcing.”

The Church of England (with the Clewer Initiative) and the Catholic Church (with Santa Marta) are working with their parishioners to identify these unregulated hand car washes. They have just launched an easy-to-use SafeCarWash App which enables information to be collated on local sites.

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Notes to Editors:

The video of the evidence session can be found here

Details of the select committee membership and terms of reference can be found here

About the RMI

The Retail Motor Industry represents the interests of operators in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man providing sales and services to motorists and businesses. The RMI has a formal association with the independent Scottish Motor Trade Association which represents the retail motor industry in Scotland.