Lancashire districts demand tips reopen - but county council leader tells them to think about the NHS
A group of Lancashire district council leaders has demanded that Lancashire County Council reopen its household waste recycling centres amid concerns over an increase in fly-tipping.
County Hall said on Wednesday that the gates of its 16 facilities will remain closed for the duration of the current lockdown – because, it says, a trip to the tip does not constitute an essential journey under government guidelines.
But seven out of the eight Labour district council leaders in Lancashire have signed a letter to their Conservative county council counterpart Geoff Driver calling on him to reconsider the decision.
The correspondence outlines concerns over the potential for vermin to be attracted to areas where mixed waste is being dumped and asks County Hall to reopen recycling centres in those districts which are most affected by fly-tipping.
South Ribble Borough Council leader Paul Foster offered to work with the county council to get the tip at Farington back in operation within days.
“We wholly accept that there will need to be a phased, managed reopening of the centres, and that the health and safety of the staff remains the top priority,” Cllr Foster said in a separate email to County Cllr Driver.
“However…we can safely collect the waste from residents’ homes, operate supermarkets and other retail outlets – so surely there must be a safe way to reopen the waste recycling centres?”
The Leyland-based authority this week urged residents not to fly-tip or burn their rubbish – activities which have both recently increased in the borough.
But County Cllr Driver said that those calling for the tips to be reopened during the lockdown needed to “reflect on whether they really do care for the NHS – because [protecting the NHS] is why the government introduced the four categories of essential journey”.
He also warned that the police would probably need to be involved with the reopening of the centres when the time does come for them to start accepting waste once more.
“We are not about to facilitate people making non-essential journeys. If the government change their mind and say that [going to the tip] is an essential journey, we will then look to reopen our sites.
“However, people must realise that it will be a mammoth logistical exercise and we will need the police to co-operate, because sadly people don’t respect social distancing when they get into these situations,” said County Cllr Driver – adding that there was no excuse for fly-tipping, as ordinary kerbside waste collections are continuing across the county.
Rossendale Council leader Alyson Barnes said that County Cllr Driver’s stance is “is out of step with the needs of our residents, the view of his own government and the opinion of many district leaders in the county”.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has issued guidance to local authorities advising them that waste recycling centres can remain open if social distancing can be implemented – but stress that human health must be protected at all times.
The varying layouts of Lancashire’s waste centres are such that keeping staff and users two metres apart could be more difficult in some than others. The county council said last week that it was considering how to reconfigure the sites to ensure the safety of workers and the public once the lockdown is lifted.
The letter to County Cllr Driver was signed by the leaders of Hyndburn Council, Lancaster City Council, Pendle Council, Preston City Council, South Ribble Borough Council, Rossendale Borough Council and West Lancashire Borough Council.
Several local authorities in the North West have already reopened – or are intending to reopen – their household waste facilities.
SKIP THE TIP
West Lancashire Borough Council has set up several “community skips” to provide its residents with an alternative while the district’s two household waste recycling centres are shut.
However, Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver described the move as “questionable”, claiming that travelling to the location of the skips was no more an essential journey than visiting a tip.
But a West Lancashire Borough Council spokesperson said that the police had been consulted and “raised no objections” to the provision of the service.
“Community skips have been provided to help combat the issue of fly tipping which has increased significantly in some areas in recent weeks, following the lockdown situation and the closure of household recycling centres.
“The skips are available for a few hours each day in residential areas within walking distance of many people’s homes and therefore residents are not being required to make unnecessary journeys. Waste can be taken to the skips while people are out on their daily-permitted exercise.
“West Lancashire Borough Council Staff, who have been provided with appropriate protective clothing and equipment, are there to help residents comply with the two-metre social distancing guideline. Residents have been grateful for the service and co-operative with the measures in place to help safeguard staff and themselves.”