Last week I met again with officers on the junction of Woodgrange Road and Sebert Road to talk with them about the actions we all agreed last time. Avid readers of this blog (hi Mum) might remember that after some feedback, some frank exchanges of views on social media, and finally a pile of bin bags of frankly appalling proportions, Seyi arranged a site visit there between the two of us, and officers from Enforcement, Street Cleansing, and Refuse collection. You can read all about that in our earlier post here.
This time it was a shorter and a smaller meeting to see how we’d done and follow up on the actions agreed. After we last met, there was a tantalising period of a few days where there appeared to be no fly tipping at all on that corner. Now, obviously one knows that these problems are complex and time-consuming, and I did tell myself sternly every time I passed it (and tweeted an excited picture of it all lovely and clear), “Don’t get ahead of yourself. Don’t think you’ve fixed it. DO NOT think you’ve solved it.”
But human nature being what it was, I’m ashamed to admit that a little optimistic piece of me did think, ‘supposing we’ve actually solved it?’ And of course that little piece of me was absolutely crushed when more bags of rubbish appeared and it was revealed that, shockingly, no we hadn’t just solved the problem entirely and made it go away forever.
However, if I had to summarise I’d say that this particular hotspot is now ‘better than it was, but not solved’ which given where we started from seems pretty good to me.
For transparency, I’ll go through each of the action points we agreed last time and update against them.
Action points from actions from September 19th site visit
1. The ‘drop off point’ for the street sweepers’ bags of litter will be moved from here to elsewhere.
This has been done. Although the bags themselves aren’t fly tipped, and are picked up (or should be) within 24 hours, we all felt that rubbish left there was encouraging other people to leave rubbish. Bags of litter left by street cleaners are now left at a different, less problematic location.
2. The rubbish bags there when we met would be picked up immediately (pleasingly, this happened whilst we were having a wrap-up and a coffee afterwards)
As we said, they were picked up almost eye-wateringly quickly. I also think that the cleansing team made a particular effort to clear the area in the following days, which was partly what made the area so much visibly cleaner so quickly.
3. The people who drive the ‘cage’ vehicles to pick up fly tips will be reminded to clear up the litter that is left behind as well (less pleasingly, as I write this, the bags are gone but the litter remains. Something for us to improve here).
After we wrote the original post we were in touch with the officer in cleansing who confirmed that cleansing are told to pick up the fly tips as quickly as possible, to move on to the next one, and do leave litter behind, though this should be subsequently picked up by the street cleaners. We are a bit perturbed by this, as several residents are, and Seyi and I will pick this up with officers. I know we’ve seen and heard residents being frustrated that a fly tip has been picked up, but the area is still left in a mess. We will find out about this, find out what other councils do, and let you know if we can change anything here.
4. Street cleansing will arrange for a ‘proper’ litter pick around and inside the road works which is not usually cleared of litter. This should make a visual difference and make people less likely to contribute to the litter.
This was done, and immediately looked much better. Since then the road works have finished (and we are assured that once the gas works are complete, the resurfacing of Sebert Road can go ahead) so this is something to be optimistic about.
5. Enforcement will visit the flats above shops again to remind them about timed waste collections and what they need to do.
This action was actually taken up by the waste team, who followed up a letter delivered by enforcement earlier this year with another letter reminding residents of those flats about the times for their waste collections, and that rubbish should be left on Woodgrange Road, not on the market square by the commercial bins. Interestingly, I have noticed since that although bags of rubbish are still left out at the wrong times, they are more often on Woodgrange Road now, or in a location a bit closer to Woodgrange Road, which seems better than it was before although still not perfect.
6.Enforcement will also visit the nearby shops and check that they have a trade waste agreement (which is to say, they’ll check they have proper arrangements to dispose of their waste)
7. There is a commercial bin that is left out on the marketplace, unlocked, over the weekend. Enforcement will speak to the business concerned and make sure this doesn’t happen.
This was perhaps the most useful of the action points. Enforcement are visiting the local businesses and have found several areas that require further investigating. Businesses are required to have an arrangement to dispose of their waste, either by purchasing a service from Newham or by contracting with a private provider. Whilst we can’t and won’t name the businesses involved, there are definitely some fruitful lines of enquiry that are being pursued.
One business in particular didn’t have a trade waste agreement at all. Other businesses didn’t have sufficient paperwork to reassure the officers, and will be visited again. Enforcement reassured me that they have ‘gone in softly’ and given businesses the opportunity to show evidence of having arrangements in place. They can ask to see details for up to 2 years, but instead will typically ask to see paperwork for the previous 3 – 6 months, to be sure that rubbish is disposed of properly and not just left outside.
We are really hopeful that commercial waste may represent one of the main sources of fly tipped rubbish at this spot, and that checking the local businesses’ arrangements will help to stop this.
8. We are going to collect some intelligence about exactly when the rubbish at this spot is dumped so that we can ask the night team to visit and do some enforcement. We have a tentative plan about how to do this by collecting info via social media, but if you have an idea about a good way of doing this, then please let us know.
Seyi and I joked about camping out in her car for a night, with recording equipment and snacks, and then I think we both had a moment where we realised neither of us were joking… it hasn’t quite come to that, but so far we haven’t needed to collect information by social media. I walk past that spot at least once a day, and have been collecting evidence and pictures and the ward enforcement officer (new, but very keen and a very active part of this plan) has been doing so as well. We’ve picked up some addresses and some other information that has helped to do some enforcement as well as the prevention.
I found a few boxes from an Amazon collection point further up the road. After a visit, it seems that some people are collecting their Amazon parcels from a collection point, walking down the road towards the station opening them, and then sometimes dumping the cardboard on the existing pile of rubbish. The shop in question was apparently very helpful – we will ask them to remind their customers to put their rubbish in a bin. (The bin, let’s not forget, is right there on the marketplace…)
We also have some intelligence from one of the shops there about where some of the waste may be coming from. I can’t share much more about that (not because it’s especially salacious, but just I need to allow enforcement to do their job) but we will pursue that as well.
In the medium-term, I think we’ve mentioned before how the Visiting Team that is going around the borough will look specifically at flats above shops and how to communicate with those residents about timed waste collections and disposing of rubbish. So I’m also hopeful that this will help as well, but we’ll carry on with all this in the meantime.
Whilst long-winded, I hope that’s been useful. Big thanks to the officers who’ve been looking into all this, and also to Seyi who couldn’t make the last catch-up due to illness, but nevertheless was the person who got this all off the ground and made it all happen.