Last week was our monthly Forest Gate Community Neighbourhood meeting where councillors from Forest Gate North and South get together with local officers to plan what we will do locally, and learn more together about how the Council services work.
As well as doing some planning for this coming financial year’s work, we also heard an update from an officer in the Enforcement department about some work going on locally, which Seyi and I wanted to share with you. I’ll write some quick bullet points below but if you have more questions please do tweet me, or leave a comment (or indeed contact me however you prefer!) and I’ll be happy to find out more.
The fly tipping task force is in place, and is being expanded to take action on the issues of fly tipping that blight our lovely area. One example we were given of how enforcement can be combined with education was that a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) was issued after a mattress was fly tipped in Leonard Road, but this was combined with a leaflet drop to local houses, reminding them how to dispose of household rubbish. We still have a lot to do here (I remember vividly the conversation I had one night with a man who was attempting to leave several bags of rubbish on a street corner, who assured me, “This is where it gets picked up! It’s a Newham thing!” and looked at me in mild confusion when I assured him, equally confidently, that he was in fact fly tipping and if he left the bags there I would report him….) but the ongoing work by the visiting team, combined with enforcement action, should have a real impact.
The team are continuing to monitor alleyways, including a particularly problematic one opposite Forest Gate station, which is often full of litter and refuse. This is a difficult issue as the alleyway is privately owned, and is also the only access point to several flats that are behind the shops. However, the officers are in touch with the owner, and have served a notice requiring him to clear the area, and I’m expecting further updates from officers.
Last year a new legal power came in that allowed local authorities to issue £400 fixed penalty notices to fly tippers. Since then, we have issued 165 of these, and I am assured we’ll continue to use these new powers robustly.
We also heard how local enforcement officers have been cracking down on the misuse of disabled badges in cars, especially on Woodgrange Road. Offending vehicles have in some cases (where the badge is stolen for example) been towed away.
In an example of some local detective work, after Ian from the library spotted some people fly posting on Woodgrange Road, he made a call to enforcement who used CCTV footage to catch the two people who were doing it, to fine them, and to seize over 1000 posters from them. Obviously each of these posters were going to be stuck up that day, so the preventative impact of seizing these was huge. They were posters for the funfair in Queen Elizabeth Park, whom I have also been in touch with via twitter (nothing like a bit of publicity to help focus people’s minds!) to let them know that the people they rent their space to are defacing our high street. They replied very quickly to say they specifically don’t allow this, and will follow it up.
We also discussed a topic that has been getting some attention on social media at the moment: the stickers advertising prostitution that are all over our street furniture, the pilasters between shops, and lamp posts. Newham is currently spending around £70k per year removing these. However, the stickers are just the tip of the iceberg, as the real issue is the sex trade that they are promoting. Newham is working with the police to close the brothels that are the source of the problem, and we also run an exiting sex work service that offers the women a chance to find a different life. In addition to the work done just peeling off the stickers, police are at work calling the numbers, following up the issue. On a slightly more trivial but still important note, I also noticed that where stickers had been scraped off by council workers, the bits of paper and detritus had been left on the floor around lamp posts, which may well be collected by street cleaners later on, but in the meantime just adds to the litter around us, and also contributes to more litter. We are also testing the use of special paint, or lamp columns, which deters people from sticking on those address labels, because they don’t adhere properly and just peel off. I will update as soon as I have more information on this.
On that note, in Forest Gate we are planning a ‘fly posting fight back’ soon where we hope to take down illegally displayed material, and perhaps to distribute some scrapers that might help community minded people to carry on removing material. I have heard tell of a community initiative where people removed stickers and posters in one area so quickly that in the end people stopped putting them up… but I need to learn more about this!
After Seyi and my intensive work on the marketplace on Sebert Road (which you can read about here and here) where we learnt more about how commercial waste contributes to fly tipping, I was really interested and pleased to learn about some additional work being done on this issue around the borough. The enforcement team have visited every business on a primary route, which is to say every business that is on a timed waste collection. They have checked that they have a waste agreement in place, checked it’s up to date, and checked that it’s sufficient for their needs. As soon as I heard, I really wanted to share this huge piece of work, which is so important for helping to reduce fly tipping at its source. Whilst many local businesses are of course responsible and engaged, it’s still the case that one of the main sources of fly tipping around shops is businesses that don’t have a trade waste agreement (and just put their waste outside at night), businesses who leave their commercial bins open so other people fly tip there, or businesses who have an agreement but produce more waste than they pay for. I hope that this kind of prevention work will have a real effect.
This is just a quick overview of some of the work that enforcement are doing. In addition to all this, our ward has its own enforcement officer, Rikki, with whom Seyi and I are in regular contact. He walks the ward for at least 5-6 hours per day, and does valuable work in helping to make Forest Gate North a better place to live.