Monday, 22 December 2014

Alley Clearance - Time to act.

One of the biggest complaints I get on the doorstep as ward councillor and when canvassing in the urban wards in Medway is that of fly-tipping. Specifically the fly-tipping of rubbish in rear alleyways that have long since been gated or unused.

Many terraced streets in Chatham used to have rear alleyways for rubbish collection in the long distant past. Many of these alleys became unused in the 1950s/60s and with increases in crime in the 1990s they became gated. Since then many of the alleys have been used as a dumping ground for every-day items. When cleaning an alley on Thorold Road I also found a number of sharp objects long since discarded; kitchen knives and the like.

The Council is aware that this is a problem but is reluctant to accept responsibility. The Council cites that the alleys behind homes are an ownership conundrum due to historical quirks on housing boundaries. Therefore to clear the alleys requires community consent and participation. Understandably many residents who didn’t cause the mess are reluctant to clear it; and many others are elderly or simply not able to carry heavy items.

The Council has an enforcement team that is tasked with prosecution but in my mind the time taken to chase and enforce adds burden to the taxpayer. I do not believe many Councils have the finance to mount significant number of prosecutions. The argument that clearance only encourages further fly-tipping is a chicken-egg argument; if we took that argument to the extreme we would not pick litter for fear it encourages people to drop it.

It is ironic that to clear a fly tip off Council land the removal operator has to be licensed and trained to handle. Yet Councils are happy for volunteers to clear sites that happen to be on private property in alleyways. Anyway; life has quirks.

This is an important issue; I have in the Luton part of my ward significant numbers of alleys blocked with detritus and seemingly no reasonable solution. The problem has therefore remained and is protracted. The rubbish becomes not only an eyesore but a haven for vermin. The general ambience of the area deteriorates as a result. 

In other Council areas they have teamed up with a local sub-contractor to charge residents £220 per tonne to remove the waste

This is an idea I believe many councillors would support, and where we can employ a local firm to undertake the work, it seems to be a no-brainer. Many councillors have ward improvement budgets and I could think of few better schemes to improve the lives of many in urban areas. 

I will be pursuing this over future weeks.

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