In common with many Councils around the country SCC has decided to introduce alternate weekly bin collections. OARA sent in a detailed response to this, arguing that in an area such as ours weekly collections are a preferred option. We recognised, however, that in a time of continuing cuts to council funding this may not be possible. We highlighted the bin related issues we experience now, potential increased problems and, importantly, suggestions for addressing those problems. This led to a personal response and thanks from the Leader of the Council and a face-to-face meeting with officers to discuss our ideas, which were welcomed. AWC will be the focus of our OGM on 9 May, when one of the senior officers will be coming to explain the new scheme and steps the Council are taking to make it a success. We need to make our voices heard to ensure that it is.
OUTER AVENUE RESIDENTS’ ASSOCIATION
RESPONSE TO ALTERNATE WEEKLY COLLECTION PROPOSALS
We are writing in response to the current SCC consultation re the budget and in particular to proposed changes to refuse collection in the city and possible alternate weekly collections (AWC).
As you will be well aware the Outer Avenue is part of the city which is seriously affected by the large number of HMO properties and the attendant impact on the infrastructure and services in the area. We already experience very visible, ongoing and dispiriting problems related to refuse and litter but, as we hope you are also aware, we have worked very hard to adopt a proactive and positive response to this. We do, literally, roll up our sleeves and get out there to do something about it in a variety of ways – and have also engaged very actively with Council officers, many of whom have provided very valuable and practical responses.
So we do know a lot – probably too much – about the rubbish in our area; we therefore hope our track record lends some weight to this response and will encourage you to take our comments on board as you draw up plans for the future.
Our view on Alternate Weekly Collections
The Committee view is that in an ideal world weekly collections are the best and our preferred option.
This is particularly so in an area such as the Outer Avenue where half the households are HMO in nature with a transient population who, for the most part, do not have the same pride in or care for the area as longer term residents, including with regard to refuse.
We understand, however, that the massive financial cuts which have been imposed mean that the Council has no choice but to make reductions in services and that difficult decisions have to be made about where these cuts will fall and how services can best be maintained.
If the Council does vote to implement AWC then it is imperative that particular consideration is given to those areas of the city, (often referred to in the Council as the “corridor of contamination!”) which are already so blighted by bin and litter issues and which are so plain, sometimes to the point of shameful, for all to see.
We have set out those issues below and, true to our record of trying to bring solutions rather than just problems, some strategies which we think could work and make a difference without costing more money.
We are sure you are familiar with these issues. However, we think it is important to spell them out at this stage. If AWC is implemented, then many of these problems will be exacerbated in areas such as ours unless these underlying issues are tackled and preventative measures built in. Issues currently experienced include:
- Bins and bottle boxes which are left permanently on the pavement, spilling/trapping litter, blocking the way (particularly for disabled and people with buggies), being prone to being tipped over by late night revellers ( often but not always students) and just looking really unsightly. AWC could result
- Residents not following refuse/recycling guidelines, so bins become contaminated and/or overloaded
- Some residents, particularly those who may have limited English, not understanding what they are expected to do
- Refuse teams not removing contaminated bins and leaving clip-on notices which are usually ignored and/or fall off and add to the litter on the street
- Bins which are visibly full but inside property/boundary being left by collection teams
- Side waste which is not collected
- Increasing sightings of rats
- Broken glass sometimes left in road after glass collection lorry has been
- Excessive number of bins at some properties, too few at others
- Some persistent offender households where there is persistent contamination and mess
- Landlords/contractors who leave excessive rubbish and expect Council to clear it
- Lack of enforcement of available powers
- Street litter is made worse by overspill from bins and lack of street sweeping and leaf collection leads to clogged up gutters and drains
- Numbered bins (many of which OARA has numbered with support from the Council) not returned to correct properties
SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVING EFFECTIVENESS OF REFUSE COLLECTION AND RELATED RUBBISH
- We understand there is a proposal for a “mop up” round in HMO areas to pick up any problems. We think this is an excellent idea which could practically tackle many of the issues cited and would encourage us to be more supportive of AWC proposals. Indeed, if the AWC proposal goes through we think this would be a “must” for our area.
- We understand the Refuse and Cleansing departments are coming together under one departmental umbrella – we think this makes sound sense as we have, for example, heard members of the street cleansing team complaining about the litter created by overflowing bins!
- Use the opportunity provided by AWC changes to negotiate some changed practices with refuse teams – including return of bins and bottle boxes to within property boundaries in HMO areas, collection of sidewaste (some teams are already good at this). We know this isn’t easy but this is an opportunity for change.
- Using possible AWC as a peg, call a conference of interested parties, such as RAs and litter picking teams in the city, who already have a lot of knowledge and show a lot of goodwill on the ground, to share good practice and ideas on how there can be more joined-up thinking and smarter solutions to the refuse and litter issues. A good opportunity for Officers/Employees to work with those of us who are willing to work with the Council and also put in effort on the ground. And good PR for the Council!
- The general waste (green lid) teams automatically picking up/emptying contaminated blue lid recycling bins when they see them so they do not just get worse
- Issue refuse collection lorries with brushes and dustpans so any spillages, including glass, can be cleared up they go
- Audit the bins that are at each property – so that there are only the right number of the right-sized bins. Money is wasted on excess bins. We are happy to carry on assisting with this process – as we have done to good effect in some of our streets already – and to number bins so they don’t go walkabout.
- Review the practice of wheelie bins for houses that have no accessible frontage. The mess from them is awful and they look dreadful. Look at parts of Portswood Road and Lodge Road – not a sight for the city to be proud of. What alternatives could be considered.
- Some university towns have a lot of student properties/HMOs but do not seem to have the bin and refuse issues. e.g. Canterbury (highest per capita student population in the country). Can someone find out what they do?
- Organise more timely targeted street and pavement cleaning during university holidays when there are a lot fewer parked cars in the way. This is an opportunity to get the bins off the pavement, sweep up the leaves, clear debris from gutters and drains so that weeds don’t seed. This approach could save costs of weed killing, drain unblocking and therefore be more effective and better value for money. And if the street starts out smart students and others are more likely develop good bin and litter habits and keep it that way.
We could say more but that is probably enough, save to urge you to give special consideration to areas such as Outer Avenue when you are considering the future for refuse collection and street cleansing in the city. The Council talks in its plan of Southampton being “an attractive and modern city where people are proud to live and work”. We absolutely endorse this aspiration and believe a clean, rubbish free, attractive environment is a key part of making this a visible reality.
Hilary Jackson ( Secretary) and Sue Swallow (Chair)
on behalf of the OARA Committee
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