Council removing donations from outside Harpenden charity store

DONATIONS left outside Harpenden charity stores are being classed as “unwanted rubbish” and removed by council workers as part of their street cleaning work.

The incident came to light after a customer saw a donation she’d left outside the Keech Cottage Charity Shop after business hours being taken by an unmarked van. She had seen this van taking bags from outside other charity stores previously, but decided this time to report it as theft and took the van’s registration number.

The police traced the number back to the council, which admitted that the Enterprise rental van was being used by them to remove the bags because members of the public often complained about them being left on the street.

Pamela Collins, manager of the Keech Cottage shop, said: “It may have been going on for a long time and we haven’t known about it because we didn’t know the bags were there to be taken.

“What worries me is that these bags can contain valuable items and they are just being dumped as rubbish.

“For the people who donate to us, this is very offensive. They are trying to be greener and less wasteful, but the people who should be leading by example are throwing their efforts away.”

Store managers have been told that the bags are being classed as “fly tipping” and that they are often found “strewn across the pavement” but Ms Collins and the managers of Cancer Research UK, Debbie Hutchinson and Jackie Eeles, dispute this.

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Miss Eeles said: “The bags can be ripped and one or two may have been gone through but in my 14 months here, I’ve never seen a bag strewn across the pavement.”

Mrs Collins added: “I can understand the need to keep the streets tidy but it’s unbelievable that the council would take what is clearly a donation to a charity and dispose of it.

“We’re open from 8.30am to 7.30pm but even so, some people have to donate outside of business hours because of work and other commitments.”

A spokesperson for St Albans District Council said: “The council has been collecting any bags left on the pavements as ‘unwanted rubbish’. Complaints are often made if bags are left on the street.

“This happened outside Keech Cottage Charity Shop, although they have a sign in their window asking people not to leave donations outside their shop.

“However, since it has come to the attention of both parties, an agreement has been reached whereby bags left outside the shop will not be collected by the council Monday to Saturday, on the understanding that the shop will take bags in as soon as they open regardless of their condition or whether people have opened the bags.

“The police have liaised with other charity shops in Harpenden to see if they wish to make the same arrangement and they have all agreed to this, so the council will extend this arrangement accordingly. Any queries can be made to the council by calling 01727 819285. ”