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When will the household waste recycling centres reopen in Cambridgeshire?

Plans are being drawn up to reopen Cambridgeshire’s tips, but the gates will only open when the government advice changes, the county council has said.

Pressure has been mounting across the country to allow household waste recycling centres to reopen despite the Covid-19 pandemic, following reports of increased fly-tipping.

A household waste recycling centre (33977031)
A household waste recycling centre (33977031)

The county council’s executive director for place and economy, Steve Cox, told the council’s economy and environment committee on Thursday (April 23): “They are obviously closed at the moment. Plans, this week, are being prepared, so we will have a draft plan at the end of this week/beginning of next, to start to look at.

“Timing-wise, I think it’s difficult. The essential reasons for leaving the home that are set out very clearly by government for food, supplies or exercise, are clear – they don’t include a trip to the HRC [household recycling centres]. That guidance may change as we move forward. If it is to change we want to make sure that we are ready to reopen the HRCs, so that plan is being put in place for that eventuality.

“The issues will be around ensuring social distancing when those centres are reopened. But also important is traffic management. We all know there is a huge pent-up demand for people to want to use the HRCs, and that will no doubt release when they are able to reopen, so we are putting in place as part of that plan how we can make sure there isn’t any impact on the road network.”

He said the council is working with the police and others to prepare.

“We are working closely with all our neighbouring authorities because there has to be a coordinated reaction or response. It will be difficult I think if any one authority chose to open the HRCs while others don’t, because I think there will be a flood potentially of visits to that county or that local authority area,” he said.

Steve Count. Picture: County Council. (33977296)
Steve Count. Picture: County Council. (33977296)

Tory council leader Cllr Steve Count, told the council’s general purposes committee on April 23 that the government has clear guidelines for when people can leave their homes - to buy groceries, for medical reasons, to work if you cannot work from home and for daily exercise.

Cllr Count said: “Unless the government offers up new guidance, that the reasons to leave home are different to those, then it is inappropriate to open the HRCs at the moment. So this is the national picture, and probably 95 per cent of councils, I only know of one council in the country that has an HRC open.

“So we are awaiting government advice on whether they wish to change the guidance to allow household recycling centres to reopen, and in the meantime we are working to actually look at a plan on how that may be achieved should that advice change. But until that advice changes, the HRCs remain shut.”

Leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition, Cllr Lucy Nethsingha, said: “There are quite serious issues for some people with the closure of the recycling centres, and in some areas no bulky waste collection.”

She said those living in small accommodation may struggle if they need to dispose of large items such as broken white goods.

“I don’t think that’s something we can just leave in the long-term, we do need to get some answers about how quickly those are going to be reopened,” she said.

Cllr Count said it is a “national subject” and that there are “a lot of people in agreement that we want to get these open when it’s safe to do so. But also we do not want to dampen down the message to the public about the four core reasons they should leave the house”.

“There are a number of staff that have been deployed from those sites to help in other areas that we would need to work out how they would come back,” he added.

“We have had reports nationally that those areas that stopped the garden waste collections – I think in Cambridgeshire that is South Cambs and the city – there have been increased incidents of fly tipping.

“Those are district council matters, and I don’t believe there are any restrictions on that happening, it is possible for district councils to collect bulky waste.”

Lib Dem councillor Lorna Dupre said she recognised government guidance on acceptable trips does not specify trips to the tip, but said: “However the guidance that government has issued for local authorities on household recycling centres, envisages household recycling centres being open under certain conditions.”

She said there is a “conflict in the government guidance that needs to be sorted out, because it is quite clear with the guidance on dealing with waste and recycling that household recycling centres are not automatically shut”.

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