Chaos on Mayfield Road yesterday morning, when just before dawn a fly-tipper dumped a load of assorted builder’s waste in the middle of the suburban Sanderstead street.
This is just the latest instance of a rapidly growing problem in Croydon, but it showed how ill-equipped – and incapable – our council is for dealing with the issue, so much so that the local Conservative councillor has immediately called for an investigation into the council’s non-response to a potentially dangerous situation.
Croham ward councillor Maria Gatland has taken up the matter with Tony Brooks, the council’s “director” of public safety and public realm, to say that, “Residents of Mayfield Road received extremely poor service from the council dealing with this incident of a major fly tip on a very busy commuter road.”
Yet yesterday afternoon, residents were being told by officials that it could take up to three days for council workmen to attend to remove the debris dumped on the roadway and pavements.
Several Mayfield Road residents were awoken around 4am yesterday by the crashing noise of breaking glass and clanking metal from the quick-getaway dump.
When they went to investigate, a dust cloud obliterated any views of their street for some minutes. Once it had cleared, the residents were confronted with what looked more like a Mogadishu war zone than a residential road in South Croydon. They found parked cars damaged and large pieces of assorted debris, including a discarded oven, a pick axe and a Southwark wheelie bin full of heavy building rubble.
It appeared as if it had all been left by a moving vehicle, as the wreckage ran for some distance up the street. The oven had smashed the indicator lights on a parked car. The offending truck was long gone.
With the fast-approaching Monday morning rush hour, when their road, which is also a bus route, is usually busy with through traffic, the residents began the task of clearing the street.
The police were called – at least to report the incident – but they would not attend as they said it was a council matter. The council was called and they said that someone would attend “when on duty”. They did not say how soon that might be.
Some of the residents formed a makeshift road-block, shining lights and waving traffic down to warn them of the danger ahead. Some drivers actually sped up and then hit the debris – skidding out of control.
After half an hour and more calls for help by residents, the police advised that they had put pressure on the council to attend. One of the residents, in a hi-vis jacket, was nearly run down by an impatient motorist. “Perhaps the drivers thought we were going to mug them, standing around waving our arms, some still in slippers and dressing gowns,” one said.
The police were advised again. This time, the police decided to attend – not because of the fly tipping, but because of the residents’ road block.
The attending police vehicle formalised the road closure, and the officers called the council again. The residents had cleared as much as they reasonably could, but were not equipped to cope with some of the industrial rubbish that had been left.
Eventually, a “team” from the council arrived – two men with a truck, and who usually deal with the immediate aftermath of road accidents. The men are the only ones on duty overnight, covering Croydon and other boroughs from a base outside London in Esher.
The photos published here do not show the situation at its worst, because residents had already moved some of the bigger items of debris and started sweeping.
There has been a noticeable increase in casual domestic fly tipping, especially in areas to the north of the borough, since the move to fortnightly bin collections and the reduction in street scene officers.
Those in charge of the council and some of their Glee Club chums bang on about improved recycling rates, or pretend it is in some way the dumped-upon residents’ fault because they should report instances of tipping. Yet cut-backs in the staffing and operating hours of the Taberner House call centre mean that there is much less opportunity to get through to the council.
Some fly tipping sites have had the rubbish left there for so long that additional rubbish has been piled on to original fly tipping, and which has all been allowed to fester in the summer heat for more than a week, with its mix of builders’ rubble, fetid kitchen waste, and used nappies, all helping to make parts of Croydon begin to resemble a favela.
With people by-passing the council’s failing rubbish collection system in this way, it is no wonder that recycling rates are “improving” – because more crap is being smeared across our roads and pavements daily.
Much of this is what might be regarded as “domestic” fly tipping: starting off with two or three bin bags of rubbish, or discarded beds or wardrobes left out on the street because some just cannot penetrate the council’s website or cope with the fortnightly collections. Such sites, left uncleared, accumulate more rubbish over time.
Industrialised fly tipping, as suffered yesterday by the residents near Sanderstead station, is also a growing problem as rogue builders try to avoid increased landfill taxes, hiring dodgy outfits to dispose of their waste, without conscience as to where it might end up.
According to one Mayfield Road resident, the council officer manning the emergency call centre overnight said that they had not realised the situation there was serious. This despite the police saying that they had contacted the council’s emergency service more than once.
“How much more serious can it get, being told that there are heavy bins, glass, rubble, a lawnmower, a stove and a one-ton sack of garden waste strewn along the roadway?” the resident said.
“The council response to this incident was appallingly inadequate and residents put their lives at risk standing in the road in the dark trying to clear the debris and flag down approaching vehicles to avert an accident.”
By yesterday afternoon, the wheelie bin of rubble was still in the road, and the massive sack of garden waste was blocking the pavement on Mayfield Road. The council, after having promised that something would be done during Monday, was later telling residents that it had no record of their calls that morning, and that it could take as long as three days before they could get one of their contractors (does the council have any staff left except “executive directors” these days?) to attend.
Councillor Gatland visited Mayfield Road yesterday. And unlike many of her colleagues in the Tory group which controls our council, she was not afraid to take a critical view of the failing service they oversee. “It is all very well for the council to say it takes a dim view of what happened, but I will want to know what the council intends to do to address the issues you have raised on the out-of-hours services and the inadequate responses when it did arrive,” Gatland wrote to one resident yesterday.
“I am unhappy that residents were let down when they needed help so I will also be in touch with various cabinet members,” she said. And Gatland has a reputation of being someone not to be messed with.
But then came the catch, “I will do all I can,” Gatland said.
At face value, that sounds promising. In reality, it is probably just an admission that there’s very little that backbench councillors, our ward representatives, even Tories (especially the Tories?), can achieve or influence in the Mike Fisher-led council that is wedded to developers John Laing and the disastrous £450 million URV scheme which is sucking the borough dry of all resources. Including adequate staff to man out-of-hours call centres and respond to emergency situations.
1pm UPDATE: Council workers have managed to find their way to Mayfield Road this morning and cleared away the worst of the tipped rubbish, thanks to the intervention of Councillor Gatland. The Taberner House call centre lines were so busy, residents were unable to phone in to report that the work had been done…
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