Croydon Council last night announced it is to reopen three local dumps – just as the borough’s director of public health warned that we are now “at the most dangerous time in a pandemic”.
After eight weeks of pandemic lockdown, the nation is trying to deal with the confused and confusing messages issued by Downing Street, and now Croydon has opted to make some attempt to return to “business as usual” at its recycling centres.
Croydon is reopening its household reuse and recycling centres together with the other three boroughs in the South London Waste Partnership, with, the council says, “new rules in place to help keep residents safe whilst on-site”.
Describing the dumps as “HRRCs” (local administrators do love a self-aggrandising acronym), the council says, “Factory Lane, Fishers Farm and Purley Oaks HRRCs will start to accept household waste in black bags, garden waste, small electrical goods and small ‘bulky waste’ items that cannot be put in black bags, including furniture such as chairs and carpets.
“Visitors must be able to carry items on their own, as social distancing means staff will not be able to help them. No other types of waste will be accepted at this time.”
The council says that, “The changes have been put in place at the sites to enable them to operate safely.” Though after the covid-19 death toll in Britain has exceeded 30,000, it is reasonable to question whether any local authority has a real grasp on what “operate safely” really means.
Given that Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has for the last four days been issuing strong appeals for people not to go into work and not to use public transport in efforts to avoid the risk of passing on the deadly virus and causing a second wave of infections, the councils’ moves to reopen the dumps may appear a touch impatient and premature.
Indeed, the inherent contradictions in the government’s latest advice were echoed by Croydon’s cabinet member for dirty streets and fly-tips, Stuart Collins, who in announcing the reopening of the tips also said, “I’d ask residents to be sensible and not all rush to the sites at once.”
Other boroughs in the South London Waste Partnership – Merton and Sutton – have introduced online appointment bookings, for the public to reserve a time to visit their dump. Croydon has not done so and instead is going to have staff on Factory Lane and the Brighton Road at the Purley Oaks site to try to manage the anticipated queues of traffic. This may not end well…
In its announcement last night, the council said, “Visitors will need to obey social distancing rules and signs have been installed to remind them to keep a two-metre distance between themselves and other customers and site staff.
“Only cars can use HRRC facilities and only one person should exit each vehicle to ensure social distancing can be maintained. Visitors should be aware it may be necessary to temporarily close the sites if they become too busy.
“Fewer cars are allowed access to each site at any one time and residents’ permits must be displayed and will be checked prior to entry, which may lead to longer queues.
“Additional traffic management will be in place on Factory Lane and Brighton Road to manage queues.”
There is more than a sense that the council is carrying out this reopening with some reluctance, when they add, “Residents who can continue to safely store excess waste at home are being advised to continue to do so until the situation returns to normal.”
The council’s free bulky waste removal service is available once again, and can be booked on the council’s website.
The revised opening times at the recycling centres are:
Factory Lane: from 7.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Saturday and 8.30am to 4pm on Sundays. Visitors have to access the site from the south via Roman Way, A236.
Purley Oaks: from 8am to 3.30pm Monday to Sunday. There will be no access from Purley. All visitors will need to join the queue on Brighton Road, A235, north of the site.
Fishers Farm: open from 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 2pm on Saturdays and 9am to 1pm on Sundays. Access is maintained as usual.
And the council warns, “Residents are being advised that waiting times could be much longer than usual due to the implementation of social distancing rules to help keep them safe.”
Collins said, “We do expect the sites to be busy but residents can help us to reduce queue time by visiting later in the week and at quieter times, avoiding the start and end of the day where possible and only making the trip if absolutely necessary. We are still asking residents to store excess waste safely at home if they are able to or to use the council’s bulky waste collection service.”
And, almost as an afterthought, the council added one further warning: “Anyone self-isolating due to covid-19 symptoms or those in the shielded group should not visit the HRRCs.”
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At the Purley Oaks dump, you have to climb stairs, so the process is slow, and you cannot pass someone on the stairs without being less than a metre apart, not two. The space for queuing is minimal.
I would argue that sites are pretty well socially distanced without any alterations. Much more so than a supermarket, for instance.
Most people are already wearing gloves and tend to keep distance in case another person swings round with whatever they are carrying.
Wearing a mask there has always been advisable due to the smell, anyhow.
The staff already distance well and are working outdoors. So a bit of extra PPE should do the trick.
At the Factory Lane branch there is ample car queuing space since the excellent re-design a few years ago. So just limiting number of cars that can park (i.e. let cars queue within the grounds but have a marshall at the far end to limit parking) at anyone time will easily do the job.
Bring on the re opening!