St Albans waste site closure stories ‘mischievous’

Councillor blasts closure claims as “scare stories”

REPORTS that St Albans household waste site is in danger of closure have been dismissed as “mischievous” by the county’s waste chief this week.

Executive member for waste management, Cllr Derrick Ashley, denied it was closing and pointed out that the council was examining all 17 household recycling depots in Herts and that a summary of its findings would be presented in the autumn.

The report will also look at expanding or relocating a number of sites, including Ronsons Way in St Albans, and investigate the possibility of charging for services at some centres.

St Albans district councillor Simon Grover revealed last week that the county council was considering shutting the local waste site.

On the back of his revelation, the St Albans District Green Party then urged residents to sign a petition to save the depot.

Cllr Ashley said on Monday: “The report claiming that St Albans was closing was mischievous. We are going to look at whether we can deliver a better service.”

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Opposition Lib Dem group leader and St Albans councillor, Chris White, also hit out at the presumption that the household waste site would close.

He criticised Cllr Grover for running “scare stories” and accused him of “losing the plot.” Cllr White went on: “There was indeed a meeting at County Hall last week but he wasn’t there – nor was anyone else from the Green Party.

“The panel of councillors looked at moving or expanding the existing facility in St Albans – not closing it.”

Cllr White added: “I am no fan of the Tory regime at County Hall but local residents can be assured that any attempt by the county council to close any local facility will, as ever, be vigorously resisted. But I at least am not going to make up closure or other changes which are not on the cards in order to frighten people.”

Cllr Grover stood by his claims that sites such as St Albans were under threat of closure.

He said: “They are looking at closing five sites. Council hasn’t made a decision, but we want to make sure they understand the strength of public feeling before they close a well-used site like St Albans.

“I think it is worthwhile making a fuss and saying ‘don’t close the site’. They are looking at ways of saving money and one of those ways is by closing waste sites.”

A report to a waste management panel earlier this month from which the concerns emanated revealed that county council officers have been charged with coming up with a plan to achieve a better quality, better located network of household waste sites which achieves a reduction of 25 per cent in operating costs.

All depots are currently managed and operated under individual contracts, with St Albans due to expire in October 2013. It has the option of a one-year extension which would bring it up to 2014, in line with many others in the county.

Although savings could be made by reducing staffing levels, the officers believe it would be a false economy.

The report pointed out that alternative provision in St Albans could be provided at Harpenden or Waterdale in Garston but admitted that the city’s recycling centre was very well used.