Julie Rogers, Director of Environment and Highways, thanked Beau Stanford-Francis and his team for their hard work in completing the report and advised that Beau had subsequently left the employment of Thurrock Council. Julie Rogers updated Members on the progress and performance of the Linford Household Waste and Recycling Centre since it had been returned under the Council’s control in June 2017. Julie Rogers detailed the ongoing improvements and the redevelopment programme that had been identified in the report.
The Chair thanked Julie Rogers for the report and noted that the current site was old, possibly not fit for purpose and required improvements and hoped that the planned developments would provide this.
The Chair stated that the current members of the committee had not seen the proposed development plans and asked that these be sent to all Members. The Chair also requested a site visit to the Linford Centre and this would be arranged by democratic services.
Councillor Sheridan stated that she had visited the site this week and although the Council had taken steps in the right direction the site was dreadful and the permit scheme was not working successfully. Councillor Sheridan questioned why the trial week had not continued for longer and why there were no signs at the site advising residents of the permitting scheme. She also felt that there should be a facility to issue permits on site. Councillor Sheridan also questioned how the centre would cope with the increase in potential homes being built in the borough.
Councillor Rigby agreed that permits should be issued on site.
Julie Rogers stated reports and plans presented to Members at the Cleaner Greener and Safer Overview and Scrutiny Committee in October 2017 and to Cabinet in December 2017 would be forwarded to Members for information and would be happy to host a visit to the Linford Centre. Julie Rogers confirmed that the indicative plans formed part of the pre-planning application.
Julie Rogers stated that the trial week had not continued as less than 8% of residents who were allowed to access the site subsequently applied for a permit. She also advised that the site did not have broadband facilities currently which prevented issue at site currently. While the trial was in place congestion had been caused on the access road by residents queuing to get onto the site and that safety of the site was paramount. Julie Rogers stated complaints were not being received and where Councillors are receiving complaints they should encourage residents to use the Council’s complaints procedure. She advised that the site license was at risk if the Council continued to allow abuse of the site by trade and the Council must do all they can to protect it. The current turnaround on permits was seven days, she acknowledged the frustration for residents and advised the team were doing all they can to reduce the timescales involved and are focussed on an automated solution as soon as possible.
Julie Rogers stated the installation of the copper line had now taken place, and in the next few weeks broadband would be live. This would provide a great opportunity for the automatic number plate recognition system which would monitor vehicles coming onto the site. Signage for the site was in the design process and would be installed in the next couple of weeks.
Councillor Abbas questioned whether residents still had to provide identification of address before using the Linford Centre. How had the figures for the decrease in fly tipping in the borough been calculated and asked if records were kept for follow up enforcement, should a waste load be refused at the site. He also stated that the Council could have done more than just putting notification of the permit scheme in Council Tax Bills.
Julie Rogers stated awareness had increased on the site; vehicle registrations of rejected loads were taken by staff and body worn cameras captured the information required. In instances of fly tipping this information could be used to match up with offenders. Julie Rogers stated the exercise carried out in 2017 had targeted activity on the site and offenders were identified as people travelling in from outside the borough. That fly tipping figures were based on van loads and the criteria set by DEFRA.
Councillor Abbas asked what further steps could be undertaken. Julie Rogers stated for every fly tipping incident reported a member of the team would visit and record all the evidence and call in enforcement officers if required to explore such evidence. If evidence was sufficient action would be taken and include prosecution where appropriate. Further awareness for local residents will take place to discourage them paying cash for items to be disposed of and the need to check that person had the appropriate waste disposal license. If evidence was found in fly tipped waste and was linked back to that resident they could be liable for fines and potential prosecution. Work with the communications team was taking place for signage in hotspot areas and CCTV activity would be increased as a deterrent, where appropriate.
Councillor Fletcher stated when he had used the Linford Centre over the last 6 to 9 months he had not been asked for any identification. Alli Stanford stated that the security over the permit scheme had taken priority but would check with staff on site that this process was being undertaken.
Councillor Fletcher stated residents should be made more aware of the permit scheme before they actually get to the site. That communications should be improved and the link on the web site more readily available. Councillor Fletcher questioned whether there was any delay in the planning application. Julie Rogers stated that work was still ongoing and on track to be presented to the Planning Committee in October.
Councillor Fletcher questioned the limited amount of space and the access road into the Linford Centre and had consideration been made to change this point of access. Julie Rogers stated the provisional plans addressed the access point with a middle lane being introduced for traffic turning right and the route through the site would change.
Councillor Maney welcomed the project and the services that are currently being provided and relied on by Thurrock residents. He questioned whether the Linford Centre was ideally situated and what consideration had been taken into account when looking at longer term needs and the importance of keeping the site open while redevelopment took place. Julie Rogers confirmed that alternative sites had been looked at and the conclusions of these would be included in the comprehensive plans that would form part of the planning application. Julie Rogers stated that consideration was currently being given as to whether the site could safely operate a limited service during redevelopment and if it could not alternative temporary sites were being considered as a plan B.
Councillor Maney questioned why the other recycling centre had closed so quickly after opening and whether the Council had missed an opportunity to find another alternative site that would provide better services in the long term. Julie Rogers stated she was unable to comment due to this being undertaken prior to her joining Thurrock and would pick this item up with the team.
The Chair agreed with Councillor Maney that the Council could have potentially missed the opportunity of considering alternative sites.
The Chair questioned the safety and wellbeing of staff at the Linford Centre and how this would continue to be addressed when the proposed changes happen. Julie Rogers stated that staff were happier since the service had been brought back in house, working in a much safer working environment. Alli Stanford stated that staff were sometimes put in difficult positions and that the security were there to take this pressure off staff. That the security staff were well trained on how best to deal with difficult situations.
Julie Rogers stated that security had been brought in following an investigation and to deal with the repercussions of the permit scheme being introduced and would stay on site for as long as felt necessary.
Councillor Sheridan shared an incident with the committee that had occurred on site over the last couple of days. Julie Rogers stated that investigations would take place and anticipated that it was an isolated incident.
The Chair asked Members to agree on the recommendation made in the report.
That the Cleaner Greener and Safer Overview and Scrutiny Committee noted the content of the report.