St Albans recycling depot changes ‘could see rise in fly-tipping incidents’

Cllr Geoff Churchard, Local residents Joyce Lusby & Liz Needham, Cllr Sandy Walkington and residents

Cllr Geoff Churchard, Local residents Joyce Lusby & Liz Needham, Cllr Sandy Walkington and residents Peter & Anne Wares at St Alban's recycling centre who are unhappy with the proposed changes to opening times - Credit: Archant

Fly-tipping incidents could soar in St Albans if a push to drastically cut the district’s waste recycling depots’ opening times to slash costs comes to fruition, a councillor has warned.

Herts county council will shortly consult residents on proposals to reduce the seven-day-a-week service at recycling centres in the city and Harpenden to just five days.

Hours of operation would be cut from 8am to 4pm.

Last Wednesday the council announced it had chosen AmeyCespa as its preferred bidder to run the county’s household recycling centres and make the service more efficient.

The firm was asked to suggest changes to help the council save at least £6 million over its eight-year contract period.

Options to be considered include reducing the county’s network of waste recycling depots from 17 to 15, closing the Elstree and Hoddesdon sites, and introducing midweek closures across the remainder.

But this has provoked a warning from Lib Dem environment spokesman, St Albans south councillor Sandy Walkington, who said: “It’s a licence for fly-tipping.

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“The proposed random weekday closure and restricting opening hours could not be more customer unfriendly.

“The proposals smack of operator convenience.”

St Albans’ waste recycling centre at Ronsons Way operates from 8am until 6pm during summer and from 8am till 4pm in winter.

Harpenden’s centre, on Dark Lane, is also open seven days a week, but from 10am until 6pm.

Cllr Walkington said that those residents who spent all day clearing out household clutter or pruning their garden before visiting the recycling centres late in the afternoon would find the proposed 4pm closure inconvenient.

He also scoffed at council’s suggestion that locals could instead drive to alternative sites should their closest depot be closed.

Councillors were told that a key objective of the new service was to trim at least £750,000 from the waste budget a year.

AmeyCespa is keen to start a chargeable commercial waste scheme at several sites, and a permit scheme for locals wanting to take rubbish in a van or commercial vehicle.

The firm also wants to encourage the sale of reusable items, by working with local charities and community groups.

A spokeswoman for the council said that as the authority must save money, “difficult decisions need to be made”.

She said public consultation on the suggested changes was due to start later this month, which will also address concerns about journey times and fly-tipping.