By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter
A review of Nottinghamshire’s recycling centres will be undertaken in a bid to improve what council documents describe as “operational difficulties” experienced at some of the 12 hubs.
But council officers and a leading politician have stressed this does not mean closing down any of the sites, aiming instead to find ways to improve the service for residents.
Members of the transport and environment committee approved plans to launch the strategic review, which will assess whether any major changes are needed at the hubs.
It comes ahead of a national Government review into waste disposal and upcoming changes to items recycled at the kerbside.
A report published ahead of the meeting found several sites are “operating at capacity”, with many experiencing “operational difficulties due to where they are located”. This leads to complaints from residents, the report added.
This was seen most during the height of the Covid pandemic, with extensive queues seen at some sites as a result of social distancing measures on-site.
The hub in West Bridgford needed a booking system to manage traffic and congestion issues on its nearby road network, which ended in November, while the council has implemented traffic measures at other sites.
During the meeting, concerns were raised that the upcoming strategic review could lead to closures of some of the affected sites.
Councillor Tom Hollis (Ash Ind), who represents Sutton West, said: “We’ve all known for a long time there are operational issues with many of our 12 recycling centres in Nottinghamshire, as this report states.
“It talks about problems in Beeston, Mansfield and West Bridgford in particular. But is it me, Mr Chairman, or is this council teeing up to close some of our valued recycling centres seen as a pain by the council?”
Responding to Cllr Hollis, Mick Allen, group manager for place commissioning on the council, said: “This is about reviewing what we’ve got.
“It absolutely isn’t about reducing provision, it’s about making sure provision is fit for the future.”
Documents state the strategic review will assess all 12 Nottinghamshire recycling centres and potentially Nottingham’s Lenton site.
It will review whether the facilities are “appropriately located and have enough capacity to offer residents a high-quality service going forward”.
The report states the review will assess management processes, population and household growth and the accessibility of current sites.
The council expects the review will recommend the “optimum number and locations” for Nottinghamshire’s recycling centres and outline constraints and opportunities for the existing network.
The meeting also heard suggestions from councillors about allowing trade vehicles and vans into recycling centres for a small fee, which many believed would reduce fly-tipping levels countywide.
It was also suggested limiting access exclusively to Nottinghamshire residents – the current rules in place – could be reviewed.
This, councillors said, would again limit fly-tipping and make recycling waste more accessible for residents on the city border.
Cllr Penny Gowland (Lab), who represents West Bridgford North, added: “To get rid of waste efficiently we need to make it as easy as possible for people to get to the recycling centres.
“They need to be close to their houses otherwise we’ve got a contradictory situation where we’re wasting petrol.
“I welcome the chance to even it out across the county and make it more efficient, as well as allowing small traders to use the facility and cross-border use. It’s all sensible.”
It comes after Wednesday’s report did not mention proposals to create a new recycling centre in Cotgrave, Rushcliffe, which had been promised by the Conservatives since the 2017 general election.
The council approved plans for the new recycling centre to move forward in 2020, with a planning application expected to be submitted in 2021.
However, no application came forward, leading to concerns in November from Bingham’s Cllr Francis Purdue-Horan (Ind) who accused his former colleagues of breaking their manifesto promises.
Speaking last week after the report was revealed, he added: “This is a missed opportunity for the council to keep a historic promise made as far back as 2017 to residents.”
Cllr Purdue-Horan’s concerns were raised by members of the Independent Alliance during Wednesday’s debate.
In response, Cllr Neil Clarke (Con), chairman of the committee, said: “I wouldn’t guarantee that every [recycling centre] stays in the same location, because it may be the strategic review finds it’s better to have another facility somewhere else.
“It could be a bigger one, the West Bridgford site in Rushcliffe is very constrained and it may be – and I emphasise maybe – the review might say to have a bigger site.”
The strategic review, which is also expected to outline opportunities for future investment and income generation, is expected to take three months to complete.