ST OSYTH PARISH COUNCIL
Minutes of Meeting with County Councillor Kevin Bentley Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Waste and Recycling to discuss Martins Farm Recycling Centre, St Osyth on Tuesday 27th September 2011 at 7.30 pm.
St Osyth: Chairman Cllr. Sonia Grantham, Cllrs. John Kemp, Alan Rolfe, Jean Smith, Michael Talbot (TDC), Julie Ward and John White (TDC)
Alresford: Cllrs. Gary Scott (TDC), Linda Belgrove and Ann Wiggins Brightlingsea: Cllrs. Alan Goggin (TDC), Graham Steady ,(TDC) Janet Russell and Liz Edey
Elmstead Market: Cllrs. Nick Bell and Gaynor Mason
Great Bentley: Cllrs. Lynda McWilliams (TDC), Luke Bentley, Bill Herbert and Robert Taylor
Great Bromley: Cllr Fred Nicholls (TDC)
St Marys Ward, Clacton on Sea: Cllr Irene Tracey (TDC)
Thorrington: Cllrs. Andy Sadler and Pam Sadler
Essex County Council (E.C.C.): County Councillor Kevin Bentley, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Waste and Recycling
Essex County Council (E.C.C.): Jason Searles, Head of Waste & Recycling
Tendring District Council (TDC): Stephen Sparrow, Assistant Head of Environmental Services (Waste Management)
Cllr. Derek Robinson (E.C.C.), Cllr. Rosemary Heaney (Great Bromley)
MINUTES: Neil Williams (Parish Clerk)
MF001 WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS:
The Chairman welcomed all present, in particular Cllr. Kevin Bentley, Jason Searles and Stephen Sparrow, in addition to providing a brief background as to the reasons for the meeting.
MF002 RATIONALE AND DECISION PROCESS:
Cllr. Bentley thanked those attending and explained his rationale and decision as to which of the twenty three Recycling Centres within Essex could possibly face closure, a process which had begun prior to his tenure. He explained that although there was no requirement for a statutory consultation, he believed it only correct that he should talk with those likely to be affected.
Cllr. Bentley explained how in keeping with Essex County Councils proposal to cut its budget by £300m, it was necessary to make savings of £600,000 within the Waste and Recycling sector. He went on to state that in addition to the proposed closing of two sites, namely St Osyth and High Ongar, there would be a reduction in the opening hours of the remaining twenty one sites across the county. The decision will not be made until mid October. Cllr. Bentley stated how the operation of the current Recycling Centres had been reviewed and that in doing so the tonnage had been a contributing factor. Martins Farm had seen a progressive decrease in terms of tonnage between 2006 and 2011.
With the introduction of further kerbside collections by Tendring District Council, including food waste, it was predicated that there would be further decreases. Cllr. Bentley highlighted the fact the Essex County Council were only responsible for the disposal of waste and that the collection remained the responsibility of Tendring District Council. He concluded by stating that whilst he understood that the closure would be an inconvenience for some, any decision would be based on numerous factors which included the number of sites in any one area and the distance to neighbouring sites.
Mr Searles reiterated that assessments had been based on the reduction in tonnage throughout the county and the proximity of sites, in addition to the remaining sites abilities to deal with increased capacity.
MF003 VIEWS OF COUNCILLORS AND RESPONSE FROM COUNCILLOR BENTLEY:
The Chairman then invited Councillors to raise concerns with Cllr. Bentley and Mr Searles.
a) Cllr. Julie Ward (St Osyth) stated that the road to Rush Green Recycling Centre frequently had delays and asked how Essex County Council planned to deal with the increased volume in traffic?
Jason Searles responded that based on current trends, the site would be busiest on a Sunday and that Essex County Highways had been approached, who had no concerns about increased traffic.
b) Cllr. Irene Tracey (TDC) stated that “green waste” would be an issue in that Rush Green only has one container and that additional capacity was required in order to compensate for the proposed closure of Martins Farm.
Jason Searles responded that the introduction of an additional lane was being progressed which would alleviate any potential delays and allow for a faster flow of vehicles. Work was also being undertaken to see whether this lane could be allocated solely for green waste
Cllr. Kevin Bentley added that 2000-2500 compost bins would be made available for residents at no cost.
Cllr. Irene Tracey concluded that she was happy that Essex County Council was addressing the issue of green waste.
Cllr. Kevin Bentley stated that he expected to see a reduction in green waste with the onset of winter.
c) Cllr. Garry Scott (TDC) raised a number of concerns, stating that Rush Green could see an increase of between 35 – 40%, which he believed to be too much for the site. The closure of the Martins Farm site would see his Parish residents having to travel 8.8 miles each way in order to use the Rush Green site, which was not adequate.
Cllr. Scott also expressed concern that there would be a marked increase in cases of fly tipping, especially in Wivenhoe, which has the lowest recorded cases in the Colchester area. He further commented that residents of Wivenhoe regularly used Martins Farm, which had a higher overall usage than that of Lawford.
Cllr. Kevin Bentley agreed that Wivenhoe was a considerable distance from Rush Green, however, Shrub End would be the obvious choice for residents of that particular town. He continued that although Lawford had a lower usage, it was further from the next site, when compare to Martins Farm and Rush Green. He noted that it may be unacceptable to some, but it was necessary. As a learning point, Cllr. Bentley requested information as to what is being taken to Recycling Centres that cannot be recycled or disposed of at the kerbside.
Jason Searles added that the increase in use wouldn’t be confined to Rush Green alone and that other sites including Shrub End, Kirby and Dovercourt would be used. He further stated that the figure of 35 – 40% was based on a “worst case scenario”, in that all users of the Martins Farm site move to Rush Green, and visit the site with the same frequency. It was also stated that when recycling centres have previously been closed in Essex there has been no noticeable increase in levels of fly tipping.
d) Cllr. Nick Bell (Elmstead Market) stated that the current distance from his Parish to Martins Farm was a 14 mile round trip. Should the Martins Farm site close and residents of Elmstead Market choose to use Rush Green it would raise this distance to a 22 mile round trip. This would of course lead to more expenditure for many of the Parish residents, who are retired. He further suggested that partial opening of Martins Farm would reduce the anticipated increase in cases of fly tipping.
Cllr. Kevin Bentley responded that fly tipping was indeed a major concern, but that following the closure of a site at in the Braintree District, there had been no increase in reported cases of fly tipping. He further stated that cases of fly tipping in the South Colchester Borough were mainly commercial and that he didn’t think the closure of Martins Farm would lead to a sudden increase, however, it would be monitored.
Cllr. Bentley went onto state that Tendring District Council was successful at catching those responsible for fly tipping. He also stated that whilst he understood the issue of distance, the increase in kerbside collections would mean fewer items likely to have to be taken to Recycling Centres. Cllr. Bentley concluded that the reduction of opening hours alone would not create the required savings.
Jason Searles added that the costs associated with the running of the Recycling Centres were not limited to manpower and hours, there were numerous fixed costs associated with the sites which would remain regardless of how short the opening hours were. Mr Searles continued that the closure of Martins Farm would save an estimated £125,000 – £150,000 per year and that a reduction in operational days would only save £10,000 – £12,000 per year (for each day a week the site closed), and that there were not enough sites to raise the required amount by reduced operations alone.
e) Cllr. Janet Russell (Brightlingsea) questioned the long term options for Martins Farm which is a freehold site as opposed to Rush Green which is leasehold.
Jason Searles commented that he would confirm whether the sites in Tendring were freehold or leaseholds, adding that those sites which are leased are generally leased from the District/Borough Councils; however his recollections was that the Rush Green was a freehold site. He further stated there were no intentions to sell Martins Farm and that a waste permit would be retained for the site, pending possible future use as a depot for operations.
Essex County Council has the freehold for all five of the Recycling Centres currently located within the Tendring District area
f) Cllr. Robert Taylor (Great Bentley) remarked that there had been continual reference to green waste, however, this consisted of more than just grass cuttings. Larger items from gardens were regularly taken to the Recycling Centre at Martins Farm, in addition to other larger household items.
He also commented that residents of his Parish would prefer to travel to a rural site such as Martins Farm and not those located within towns. He finished by raising concerns about the increase in small scale fly tipping, which has already become a problem in his Parish, remarking that he could foresee increased costs for Tendring District Council.
Cllr. Kevin Bentley answered that larger garden items such as pruning were not a year round item and that whilst he understood that at this particular time of year it would make up a large quantity of green waste, this too would decrease as the year progressed. He asked Cllr. Taylor if the fly tipping occurred on a regular basis and the nature of the waste, being either commercial or household.
Cllr. Robert Taylor responded that the majority of the fly tipping was commercial, however, there were household objects included amongst the waste.
Cllr. Sonia Grantham informed all present that a recent case of fly tipping in Clay Lane, St Osyth had been reported to Tendring District Council who had dealt with the matter efficiently. In this particular case the waste had been of a mixed nature. Cllr. Grantham requested that the Parish Clerk comment further.
Neil Williams informed all present as to several recent case of fly tipping in Clay Lane, in which the vast majority of items had been commercial, such as plasterboard, piping and carpets. He continued that a large window panel had recently been left in the lay-by opposite the cemetery. This had subsequently been smashed, resulting in a large quantity of broken glass covering the verge.
Cllr. Kevin Bentley agreed that trade waste was the main concern in that some smaller firms were not disposing of their waste in the correct manner.
Stephen Sparrow informed all present that on average there were 700 – 800 reported cases of fly tipping each year within Tendring, again the majority of which was trade waste. The main offenders being smaller firms operating without correct paperwork. He reminded everyone that it was the responsibility of a householder to ensure that any firm carrying out work on their behalf was in possession of a Waste Transfer Note.
He concluded by stating that Tendring District Council would continue to monitor cases of fly tipping.
g) Cllr. Alan Rolfe (St Osyth) asked what research if any had been done into the additional cost to individuals should Martins Farm close.
Cllr. Kevin Bentley commented that inter authority agreements would see an increase in the volume of kerbside recycling collections and a reduction in the amount of vehicles having to use the Recycling Centres.
Jason Searles stated that additional costs to individuals had been taken into consideration and that there was no other way to make the necessary savings.
Cllr. Kevin Bentley added that users of the Recycling Centres should possibly review their usage, as currently there were numerous people making regular visits with small amounts of waste and that if they were to amass larger amounts or combine their visit to the site with another trip, such as shopping this may alleviate additional costs.
Cllr. Alan Rolfe remarked that he believed there would still be an increased economic burden to people.
Cllr. Kevin Bentley concluded that a degree of responsibility fell to individuals who should think of the best way to dispose of waste. The message to all should be think recycling.
h) Cllr. Gaynor Mason (Elmstead Market) raised several areas of concern, in that with the Government plans to cut the deficit would there be cuts to the funding of Tendring District Council for kerbside collections? She also enquired if the other sites would have the capacity to deal with additional waste and how did the closure of Martins Farm tie in with the policy of increased recycling.
Cllr. Kevin Bentley responded that District Council refuse collections were funded through Council Tax and that additional monies were also given to Districts Councils by Essex County Council, who was investing in kerbside collections. The increase in waste and recycling collections would reduce the amount being taken by individuals to the Recycling Centres. He further added that as of 1st April 2012, food waste would also be collected at kerbside.
Jason Searles added that the increased collection of food waste from kerbside would not impact significantly on the closure of the sites as the current estimate of food waste being taken to sites is already in decline. He also added that with regard to the capacity of other sites the studies undertaken have indicated that these sites have the spare capacity to deal with any increased throughout resulting from these proposals
i) Cllr. Linda Belgrove (Alresford) questioned if the current scheme of Parish Councils receiving grants through Veolia from the Environmental Trust Body would cease as the Parish would no longer be within the required distance of a Recycling Centre.
Cllr. Kevin Bentley stated that he would address the issue and ascertain how Veolia operate.
POST MEETING NOTE: Veolia Environment Trust have an eligibility requirement for funding, this criteria requires projects to be within 5 miles of a Veolia Environmental Services facility. If Martins Farm is therefore closed some areas may no longer be able to access funding from the Veolia Environment Trust. The Essex Environment Trust (which is also funded through the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme) will however fund projects throughout the County
Cllr. Linda Belgrove replied that to qualify for the grant the Parish had to be within 5 miles of a site. She further added that many residents with the Parishes did not report cases of fly tipping, preferring instead to dispose of the rubbish themselves.
Additionally, with the proposed reduction in the number of Enforcement Officers there would be insufficient resources to investigate cases of fly tipping. She concluded by stating that Alresford Parish regularly held a “Junk Day”, whereby residents could go to a central site and dispose of goods in a tipper style vehicle, however, this had gone from being a free service to one which now required a fee for use, and that as usual it seemed that Tendring District Council was “taking the hit”.
Cllr. Kevin Bentley noted that all Parishes were of the opinion that they were “taking the hit”. He commended Alresford Parish Council and their residents for clearing the rubbish but stated that due to the nature of some of the rubbish, he advised that members of the public should be discouraged from moving rubbish.
He continued that Tendring District Council must investigate cases of fly tipping and should always be requested to do so where it was suspected residents were responsible. With regard to the reduction in the number of Enforcement Officers, Cllr. Bentley stated that he could not answer the question as he was not aware as this would be a District matter.
j) Cllr. Lynda McWilliams (TDC) reiterated the concern of Cllr. Belgrove, in that Parishes were entitled to grants due to their proximity to the Martins Farm Recycling Centre.
Cllr. Kevin Bentley informed all the Big Society Fund for Essex County was available for all.
Cllr. Lynda McWilliams then expressed concern that Rush Green would struggle to cope with the increased volume of use and asked what additional costs would be incurred in catering for the additional use.
Cllr. Kevin Bentley stated that there would be a process for the continual monitoring of vehicles using the site.
Jason Searles responded that the ability to increase Rush Green from four to five lanes would simply be a case of reorganising the site, which would have a one off cost of £8,000 – £10,000. This expansion had not been carried in the past, but with the possible closure of Martins Farm, the expenditure could now be justified.
k) Cllr. Graham Steady (TDC) commented that any changes made to the current sites must be fit for the future and therefore it was important to know which agency owned which site. He also made comment as to how he believed an opportunity had been missed to expand Martins Farm, which if it were to be retained as a depot by Essex County Council would still incur overheads for its upkeep.
He further stated that with the possibility of Waste Management Partnerships, would consideration be given as to whether or not budgets could be increased to allow for local initiatives?
Cllr. Kevin Bentley replied that he was looking to make the required savings across Essex on a whole and that whilst he understood the concern of Parishes with distance of Martins Farm, there were in fact five sites serving a population of 140,000, remarking that Colchester with a population of 180,000 only had 1 permanent site.
He continued that the costs for maintaining Martins Farm had already been factored into the savings. He added that should the site close it would be secured and checked on a regular basis. He concluded that privately or community run facilities were not straight forward to initiate and instructed Jason Searles to investigate, as if it could be done he would like it to happen.
Jason Searles responded that both Martins Farm and Rush Green were owned by Essex County Council, who were looking to protect the long term future and were not looking to sell any of its sites.
l) Cllr. Jean Smith (St Osyth) asked why glass was not collected with other kerbside collections.
Stephen Sparrow informed all present that there were 166 glass banks throughout Tendring District and that on average some 2000 tonnes of glass was being recycled.
Cllr. Jean Smith thanked Mr Sparrow for his statistics and raised the issue of glass smashed on roads and pavements, which could not be recycled.
Cllr. Gary Scott subsequently informed Cllr. Bentley, Mr Searles and Mr Sparrow that currently neither Thorrington nor Frating had bottle banks.
Cllr. Kevin Bentley replied that additional facilities should and must be made available at village halls.
Stephen Sparrow stated that Tendring District Council encouraged recycling at dedicated and potential additional sites.
Cllr. Jean Smith asked why it was not possible to have glass included in kerbside collections.
Stephen Sparrow informed all present that it was unlikely that Tendring District Council would instigate kerbside glass collections as this would cost on the region of £500,000.
Cllr. Kevin Bentley added that he felt it strange that some districts collected glass whilst others didn’t, in the same way that one authority collected waste and another disposed of it.
m) Cllr. Alan Goggin (TDC) enquired as to why more wasn’t being done to allow towns to run their own sites, given that recycling is a profitable business. Additionally, he asked if anything could be done to assist Brightlingsea in establishing their own site in partnership with Eastern Waste, which has assisted two Districts in Suffolk. He concluded by questioning the policy of using barriers at Recycling Centres. Cllr. Kevin Bentley remarked that it was brilliant the Brightlingsea wanted to develop their own site and would look at self sufficiency. He commented that there were tough environmental rules to be taken into consideration, in addition to proper training, licences etc.
Jason Searles stated that waste disposal was heavily regulated by the Environmental Agency, which was responsible for ensuring certain criteria, including the issue and control of permits, together with the tracking of waste from source to final disposal. He further commented that it was a complex industry and that options to support District and Parish Councils were being looked into.
Mr Searles continued that he was not sure how the sites in Suffolk were being operated to allow charges to be levied on users as this is not allowed under current legislation. He was aware that some community groups were now involved in running these sites and it is possible that they are now responsible for the sites and charging for the use of the facilities.
Cllr. Kevin Bentley commented that he would enquire about the Suffolk sites and if warranted discuss the matter further with Suffolk County Council.
Jason Searles responded to Cllr. Goggin’s question concerning the use of barriers and stated that the barriers were there to prevent trade waste abuse and that he could see the problems associated for 4x4 vehicle owners. He stated that perhaps this ruling could be relaxed at weekends.
n) Cllr. John Kemp (St Osyth) gave comment as to how it was not possible to dispose of food waste at the Recycling Centres and asked if the Priory Development would have any bearing on the retention of Martins Farm.
Cllr. Kevin Bentley stated that methods for the collection of food waste with other kerbside collections were being considered. He further stated that developments were always a cause for review and that it any developments cause undue pressure, either he or his successor would request additional funding to reopen Martins Farm.
Jason Searles added that sampling test undertaken by Essex County Council had shown that food waste was still being disposed of at Recycling Centres. This was deemed an education issue.
o) Cllr. Andy Sadler (Thorrington) stated that it was not financially viable to collect bottles and grass cuttings along with other kerbside collections, as this would require a third waste wagon to visit Thorrington on a weekly basis or the modification of the existing vehicles. He finished by asking where the remainder of the savings would be made?
Cllr. Kevin Bentley stated that Essex County Council did not collect and therefore could not comment. With regard to the savings, the amount of £600,000 would be saved by the closure of Martins Farm and High Ongar, in addition to changing the opening hours of the remaining sites.
Stephen Sparrow informed all present that a service was to be introduced which would see two vehicles making the kerbside collections. One would deal with residual waste, whilst the other vehicle would be split to carry food waste and recycling. He also stated that containers would soon be available to households for the storage of food waste. Councils would be receiving the information soon with leaflets being distributed to the public in due course.
Cllr. Andy Sadler questioned the effectiveness of barriers at Recycling Centres, stating that they did not always prevent fly tipping.
Jason Searles responded that the amount of trips to a Recycling Centre was often dictated by the type of material being disposed off. Items such as soil and hardcore were limited as the Council is not required to provide disposal facilities for this material as it is not classed as household waste, However, he did understand that some people did do their own building work and it is for this reason that the Council provides limited disposal. He concluded that there may be a case of charging for amounts over a preset limit so as to reduce the number of journeys that need to made.
p) Cllr. John White (TDC) stated that being on an old land fill site, Martins Farm was riddled with Methane and did Essex County Council have any plans to utilise this resource.
Cllr. Kevin Bentley stated that Martins Farm would be under constant review, not only for Methane but other factors such as congestion at Rush Green. The decision to close Martins Farm would be based on the reduction in use, however, he would review any decisions.
Jason Searles added that being an old land fill site Martins Farm would continue to produce Methane, which if enough was available could be used to generate electricity, but this was not financially viable at present. He concluded that it would not be possible to build on or develop Martins Farm for a considerable period of time due to the nature of the land.
q) Cllr. Gary Scott (TDC) commented that Shrub End was the site with the highest usage, yet Colchester Borough Council had kerbside collections for the majority of items, so why was Shrub End a busier site. He additionally requested that Essex County Council resurvey the usage of sites as recent roadwork’s in the Alresford area would have prevented many residents from making the journey to Martins Farm.
He further questioned the possibility of reducing the days of operation and retaining the site, as he believed its closure would result in more pressure of the existing waste collection system and potentially see refuse being dumped in other areas and at the entrance to sites. He finished by raising an unfortunate incident where following a bereavement, an individual had been refused access to a site as the staff believed the contents being disposed of were trade waste.
Cllr. Kevin Bentley stated Shrub End caters for Colchester, which with a population of 180,000 is the largest town in East Anglia. The tonnage at the site was constantly monitored and that due to its use it was likely to increase its ability to deal with recycling. He further stated that any decision taken would be driven by cost. Jason Searles commented that the issue of the bereavement was unfortunate and requested specific information, which he would investigate. The aim was to identify and prevent use by traders not members of the public.
Cllr. Kevin Bentley wished it noted that if an apology was needed it would be given.
MF004 SUMMARY OF THE EVENING BY COUNCILLOR MICHAEL TALBOT:
At the invitation of the Chairman, Cllr. Talbot was asked to give a summary of the evening, highlighting the main aspects of concern.
Cllr. Michael Talbot (TDC) thanked Cllr. Bentley, Jason Searles and Stephen Sparrow for attending the meeting even though there had been no legal obligation for a consultation.
He then gave a brief history of the recycling policies and process adopted by Governments, County and District Councils since 1999, during which he highlighted the fact that Tendring District Council was the most economical service in Essex. He expressed a collective opinion that Martins Farm provided a crucial service for those Parishes in the area.
He went onto state that the issue of vehicle access to Rush Green remained a particular area of concern, as there were already numerous complaints regarding the volume of traffic causing delays on the road. Cllr. Talbot continued that Martins Farm did not receive such complaints due to its approach road being set off the public highway. He also expressed appreciation for the offer from the County of FREE compositing bins for household use, to those users of Martins Farm who would experience difficulty in disposing of green waste, if the site closed.
In closing Cllr. Talbot commented that all four groups on Tendring Council were present, but political differences had been set aside in the quest of one collective aim and that whilst it there is a requirement to make considerable savings, all Councillors at the meeting would prefer to have all avenues explored before the final decision was made. The need to “share the pain” was understood, however, let all aspects be considered first.
Cllr. Kevin Bentley replied that he would look at the suggested proposal for Eastern Waste, adding that he had not made his decision yet. He added that the mechanism for the delivery of some 2000 compost bins would best be arranged in liaison with Parish Councils. Cllr. Bentley thanked all for attending and invited direct contact should the need arise.
Cllr. Sonia Grantham reiterated the sentiments of Cllr. Talbot and thanked everyone, in particular Cllr. Bentley, Jason Searles and Stephen Sparrow for attending.
The meeting was closed at 9.50 pm.
Neil Williams, Parish Clerk.