A report by the Assistant Director – Neighbourhoods.
The Assistant Director – Neighbourhoods presented the report confirming it was tabled in response to concerns that have been raised by members of the public to councillors and officers regarding the HWRC provided and managed by Lincolnshire County Council, over the last 12 months.
The Portfolio Holder for Environmental Services had organised two meetings to enable councillors to raise their concerns about the site with the Executive Member for Waste and Trading Standards at Lincolnshire County Council. This report presents actions being taken by the County Council to improve access to the site.
Since the HWRC opened after its closure during the lockdown, the borough council has received complaints regarding the management of the site which had included restrictions on materials able to be deposited at the site for residents. Materials most often prevented from being disposed of had been mattresses, hardcore, wood and garden waste. Further concerns included a lack of communication with the borough council when materials could not be accepted, opening days and times for the site and the potential to lead to fly-tipping if residents are turned away.
Boston Councillors met with Lincolnshire County Council’s Executive Member for Waste and Trading Standards on 8 October 2021, and 27 January 2022 to discuss their concerns and identify areas for improvement.
The County Council was putting in mitigation measures to resolve these concerns and stated that there were several factors which had contributed to the disruption which would be highlighted and measures would be taken to mitigate the disruption.
The County Council further advised that the material collected at the HWRCs was collected by a commercial haulier and removed to separate disposal outlets located around the count and the haulage contract provided a fixed number of vehicles to service the whole of the county. In relation to the different disposal locations, they were also commercial facilities who would process, transfer or dispose of material under contract to LCC. Such
locations are required to have the relevant planning permission and Environmental Permit controlled by the Environment Agency to deal with waste and the haulage and disposal services had to be procured within strict procurement rules with due diligence to ensure that the commercial operator met the required standards.
There had been a number of issues affecting the service. The Waste Transfer Station on Boston Industrial Estate had closed down within the last 2 years and had been a location that had received a significant proportion of material from both the Boston and Spalding HWRCs.
The haulage operator Biffa sometimes faced driver shortages, and the full complement of trucks had not always been available which was reflected in the national trend.
The County Council had no control of when residents visited a site not on what type of material they presented. If spare containers were not available, then material would have to be rejected as material cannot be stored on the floor. Sites are restricted in size with a finite number of containers which need removal once they are full. Mitigation measures included alternative disposal outlets being secured to take material which should reduce turn-around times for trucks. An example was Bourne Skip Hire which now took material from Bourne HWRC which was previously hauled as far as Skegness, resulting in trucks being unavailable for several hours, the new system had saved 15 hours per week in haulage times: any reduction in turn around time in one part of the county having an effect across the service.
Biffa would be providing an extra driver and vehicle capacity in July. Sid Dennis Ltd was now providing haulage to take material from Skegness HWRC direct to the Waste Transfer Station in Skegness resulting in a reduction of haulage miles as previously this operation had been performed by Biffa. Traffic count surveys would be carried out to show how busy the HWRCs were and that information could help to justify different opening hours. If it identified peaks and troughs that information could be communicated to the public to reduce waiting times. The County Council’s website was being improved to include links to other live social media pages to enable details of any disruption.
Lengthy committee deliberation with significant repetition of concerns raised with the key comments summarised below:
Concerns at the attitude of the current operator of the Boston HWRC in respect of the lack of care by the operatives on site and a lack of consideration for the users. Ongoing issues of not accepting certain goods items due to a lack of capacity with little or no notification that they cannot receive and residents being turned away. Lack of communication with the public in respect of the inability to accept items with no prior notice even though the level of waste within the bins would indicate when they would be getting close to being full.
Closing two days in the middle of the week and restricted opening hours and if one of the four operators did not turn up, then the site was closed.
Overwhelming complaints about the continued lack of recognition of the problem by Lincolnshire County Council and ongoing frustration by Boston Borough members that they had to continually take the backlash from residents who believed they were responsible for the site.
Agreement that the site was not fit for purpose. Boston had on ongoing increases in its population with significant decreases in its provision for acceptance of waste. The imbalance grew year on year albeit there was a duty by the operator to be able to receive waste from all residents.
Strong concerns were also tabled at the safety of the site with residents having to climb dangerous steps to tip their rubbish with no consideration of the elderly or disabled residents. Lifting heavy items into a car on the flat was hard enough for many, without having to lift out of the car and carry up steps, especially if the steps were wet.
Frustration at the lack of a recycling point on the site with members citing the income streams available for items such as batteries and shredding tyres and timber.
Comments that hearsay would indicate that other authorities within the County were experiencing similar issues and if true, then liaison was required with all other authorities to strengthen the case for a need to address the situation with Lincolnshire County Council. Boston Borough Council’s own County Councillor to be tasked with challenging the County.
Members recognised the frustration of residents being turned away and in anger fly tipping garden waste and other items.
General questions included the cost to the Borough in taking over the operation, re locating to the previous site which was larger and less dangerous and a request for attendance at a future meeting by the County Portfolio Holder for waste along with a representative of the site operator with information being provided on how many days each month residents were turned away for specific waste items due to the bins being full with identification of which bins were full.
All members voiced their support and gratitude at the ongoing excellent work of the Portfolio Holder and her endeavours to address the problems.
In response the Portfolio Holder agreed all the on-going concerns and frustrations of the members and the suggestions made, and advised that she had requested a Holding Licence for the site on several occasions to enable waste to be held but had been refused. In respect of non-acceptance of certain goods, members were advised that as soon they were advised via messenger by members of the public, then comms were contacted who acted very swiftly on putting the information on social media. Neither the County nor the operators advised the Borough Council direct and it was the norm for the operators to simply put a hand written note on the site which residents only saw when they arrived with their waste.
That due to the overwhelming concerns by all members of the Environment and Performance committee in respect of the operation of the HWRC at Boston:
1. An invitation by issued to the Portfolio Holder for Waste to attend the subsequent meeting of the committee to address the issues raised and to update on their future intentions for improvement of the current operation in line with the continued volume of complaints.
An additional request for the provision of data of the numbers of incidents of non-acceptance of waste materials on the site and the type of materials.
An invitation to be issued to a representative of the Operator for the site to attend the same meeting to provide a clear response to the concern raised.