By Kit Sandeman, Local Democracy Reporter
Tips should be reopened as soon as possible to address a ‘sharp rise’ in the number of fly tipping incidents, local leaders have said.
It comes after a huge fly-tip in Ashfield was dubbed “the worst the area had ever seen” and cost taxpayers thousands of pounds to clear up.
There have been several reports of rubbish being illegally dumped in the city as well.
Elsewhere in the country, tips – also known as household waste recycling centres – have begun to gradually re-open, with social distancing measures in place.
This includes some run by Veolia – the private company contracted to run the centres in the county.
But in Nottinghamshire, the 12 in the county and the one in the city remain shut.
The county council says its policy is in line with 90 percent of the rest of the country, and that trips to a tip could not be counted as an ‘essential journey’.
Nottingham City Council has also said it has no current plans to re-open its Redfield Road tip.
Now, Labour’s leader at the county council, and the leader of the Ashfield Independents have called on the Conservative-run Nottinghamshire County Council to review the decision to close the centres.
They argue alternative opening options should be explored, potentially including allowing people to book times online, or only allowing disposal of certain products.
Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Centre has also put out a warning that the number of domestic ‘controlled burns’ in peoples’ gardens has gone up 123 percent compared with this time last year.
This could pose an additional risk to those suffering from respiratory symptoms from the coronavirus.
It is feared that the problem is worse in parts of the county where councils have had to suspend some bin collections, including Gedling, where glass collection has been suspended.
However in some parts of the county – including Rushcliffe – all bin collections are continuing, and it is thought the borough has actually seen a fall in the number of fly-tipping incidents compared to this time last year.
Labour leader Alan Rhodes, who represents Worksop North, said: “I actually supported the original proposal to close recycling centres, simply because the operatives felt they were at risk, and for me if workers are at risk it’s a no-brainer, it’s got to close.
“I know it was difficult after they announced they were closing on a certain day because there was a rush to the centres and it all became very unpleasant.
“But I think we’re getting to a point now where there is no doubt that there’s a sharp spike in fly-tipping in most areas.
“I don’t make any excuses for people who fly tip, and most reasonable people wouldn’t do it, but unfortunately there is a correlation between the closure of the centres and the increase in fly tipping.”
Councillor Rhodes says he’s written to the leader of the council, Councillor Kay Cutts, to ask for a partial re-opening of the centres ‘perhaps for a couple of hours a day’, and with enhanced safety restrictions, but that she had said no, which he called ‘short sighted’.
Derek Higton is the senior council officer responsible for tips at the county council, and said: “The county council has been working closely with the borough and district councils who collect kerbside waste to try to ensure that residents continue to receive the best possible services during this challenging time.
“While most services for residual and recyclable waste are operating effectively, a number of important kerbside services have been suspended including most bulky waste collections and some green waste collections.
“The county council’s decision to close household waste recycling centres was not taken lightly.
“The Government gave very clear advice, followed up with emergency legislation, that only essential journeys could be undertaken and a visit to the recycling centre was not classed as one of them.
“As a result, the sites remain closed until such time as that guidance and legislation changes.
“This position is in line with over 90 percent of local authorities nationally. In the meantime, work is ongoing to develop plans for safely reopening the sites as and when able to do so.
“Until that time, we would urge residents to safely store their household waste at home if necessary and compost garden waste if at all possible.
“Fly-tipping remains a criminal activity which is monitored and managed by the borough and district councils.
“However, we would remind householders that if anyone offers to take their waste away for a fee, they should check that they hold the necessary waste carriers licence to ensure that waste is going to be disposed of legitimately.”
But Government guidelines, issued on April 7, say recyling centres should be kept open where possible, and that: “Some journeys to HWRCS may be necessary to avoid rubbish building up and a public health risk.
“Where possible key sites should be maintained and if necessary, access controlled.”
The Ashfield Independents have also called for the reopening of the tips.
Councillor Samantha Deakin represents Sutton Central and East for the Ashfield Independents, and said, “We recently had the worst incident of fly-tipping we’ve ever experienced in our district in Huthwaite.
“Unlicensed waste contractors are having a field day because of the closure.
“Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Authority have even had to issue guidance to residents not to light fires in their gardens.
“Obviously, a controlled re-opening of our tips would have to adhere to strict guidelines on social distancing to protect staff and users.
“Residents have contacted me in huge numbers however saying that there is surely less risk visiting open air recycling centres than say visiting supermarkets.
“I have to say, I agree with them. Veolia has recently issued advice to local authorities on how to safety reopen their tips. I would suggest that Nottinghamshire County Council follows that advice.”
A city council spokesman said: “We are continuously reviewing our plans to re-open our household waste and recycling centre at Redfield Road but concerns remain about how it could be operated safely within current restrictions.
“Social distancing rules, as well as the safe handling of the different types of waste materials delivered to the site, potential build-up of traffic, and questions about whether such trips would constitute essential journeys are among the issues that we are seeking to resolve.
“While our crews are continuing to deal with fly-tipping – and we would of course remind everyone that this is illegal and offenders will be prosecuted – we don’t appear to be seeing an increase in incidents.
“We would like to thank the public for doing the right thing and keeping items at home until they can be properly and safely disposed of, once restrictions are lifted.”