Car wash operator David Charman has urged the Environment Agency (EA) to clamp down on unregulated hand car washes.

The Kent-based retailer said it was unfair that legitimate businesses like his were investing thousands of pounds in ensuring their dirty water was being disposed of safely while rogue operators evade environmental controls.

David’s calls follow the launch of a campaign by the Association of Convenience Stores, which is lobbying the government for greater enforcement of car wash regulations.

David, who operates the Parkfoot Garage in West Malling, said: "I think it’s time the EA took a more proactive approach.

"They have to come out and either say they’re going to treat this seriously or not, in which case we shouldn’t have to pay these costs either.

"When we build a car wash we have to abide by planning restrictions and rules. These state that all the waste water has to go through interceptors and into the foul sewer system. It can cost as much as £25,000 to set this up."

Operators also pay ongoing costs for cleaning, as well as an annual registration charge to the EA.

The EA’s soil policy manager, Phil Chatfield, said a revised policy on vehicle washing will be available at the end of March."This will contain more details on what is acceptable and will in effect have tighter requirements."

Defra is also considering vehicle washing as part of a wider consultation on non-agricultural diffuse pollution.