Squaring the rubbish circle on Oval Road was never easy

CROYDON COMMENTARY: In answer to a public question at last night’s Town Hall meeting about the terrible state of Oval Road since rubbish contractors Veolia started a bin bags trial in 2020, Cllr Scott Roche said ‘a review of the effectiveness of the trial has been completed, and the council is considering what option will be taken forwards. This will be done in conjunction with local residents.’
Here, JERRY FITZPATRICK, pictured right, a former Labour councillor for Addiscombe West ward, responds to the complaints made by a resident about the long-term lack of action on behalf of locals

For those who don’t know Oval Road, the context is that the road has a specific issue in that there are a significant number of properties which are divided into flats, these properties having insufficient curtilage to accommodate the number of bins which are required for a waste management system using four types of container, or indeed five for those properties which have a bin for garden waste.

State of that: a typical morning scene on Oval Road since Veolia’s bin bags trial

The waste management problems are not unique to Oval Road but are complicated by the fact that the majority of properties are multi-occupied, with steps leading to upper flats and basement flats, and many properties are rented with a quick turnover of tenants, not all of whom know and understand the waste protocols.

Councillors had several walkabouts with senior officers before the consultation which took place with residents in the summer of 2019. The streetscape was deplorable, and hazardous to pedestrians (particularly those pushing buggies) and wheelchair users. Bear in mind that Oval Road is a busy thoroughfare to and from East Croydon and Addiscombe.

Councillors met and received correspondence from residents who expressed their concerns in no uncertain terms.

The ward councillors set out to consult residents about improving the situation. The consultation took place in June 2019, and was thorough and careful. I was responsible for drafting the leaflet. The options set out in the leaflet were options put forward by council officials, not councillors.

The leaflet set out clearly, accurately and fairly the situation that existed at the time it was written. The leaflet was put in an envelope and put through every door in Oval Road as I can personally attest, as I was part of a small team which delivered them on a sunny weekday June morning. Of course, it is possible that one or two letterboxes out of the 300 in the road were missed, but the idea that vast swathes of the road might have been missed is incorrect.

Centre of dissatisfaction: the ‘trial’ for bin bags on Oval Road began in early 2020

Councillors received a sizeable clutch of emails in response to the leaflet, all of which were acknowledged. The two consultation sessions were timed to maximise attendance. They were staffed by senior council officers and one or more councillor was present throughout. They were well-attended.

There was consensual dissatisfaction about the waste management arrangements then existing, but no consensus as to the best way forward.

There was no consultation meeting (badly attended, or otherwise) in November 2019. In the late autumn of 2019, council officials – having considered the responses to the June consultation – came to the view that the bag system be operated on the basis that there would be a review after the trial had run for at least a year. On this basis, councillors thought it was worthwhile to have a trial.

The bag trial commenced a fortnight before the covid pandemic lockdown. It has had serious problems, some but not all of which were attributable to the effect of the pandemic on the collection service and then the post-Brexit attrition of drivers of the collection vehicles.

Since January this year, the council and Veolia have made conscientious attempts with some success to provide an acceptable service, but the standard is still not consistently at a level which residents might reasonably expect.

In the bag: ex-councillor Fitzpatrick says that the Veolia service on Oval Road ‘is still not consistently at a level which residents might reasonably expect’

The main reason that the review was delayed was because the pandemic was not a normal, representative period of time and caused obstacles to efficient waste management collection across the borough, not least to Oval Road.

It was agreed by officers in November 2021 that a consultation take place when the senior council official (Tom Lawrence) returned to post in March 2022, after a year’s secondment. It couldn’t take place during the election moratorium period. It should certainly now take place as soon as possible.

In my time as an Addiscombe West councillor, the councillors were never wedded to one idea about waste management. In fact, the councillors had different ideas about possible more optimal solutions, but the implementation of these were not in our gift, not least because they would have required higher council expenditure.

It is not for me to say whether my colleagues and I were competent or otherwise. But for sure our failure to solve all the problems in the road were not for want of huge effort. On a positive note, we were successful in obtaining funding for a significant amount of tree-planting in the road. A council official confirmed to me last week that this money is in the budget, and therefore I hope the planting can take place in the coming months.

Residents of Oval Road want satisfactory waste management.

Residents of Oval Road want to recycle.

Residents of Oval Road don’t want the street to be littered with bins and with unlidded green and blue boxes with stuff spilling over onto the footway.

Reasonable residents are also aware that this is not an easy circle to square. I hope that a review will enable a positive solution to the problem to be identified.

  • ECCO, the East Croydon Community Organisation, is holding a walkabout with ward councillor Patricia Hay-Justice this Saturday, October 22, from 11am. To take part, meet at the corner of Cherry Orchard Road and Addiscombe Road, outside Knolly’s House. “The aim will be to identify what opportunities there are to improve the area in which we live,” ECCO says.

Read more: Binmageddon!: Oval Road residents despair at rubbish service

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3 Responses to Squaring the rubbish circle on Oval Road was never easy

  1. Hazel swain says:

    Tanfield Road has the same problem with bins taking up the whole pavement because there is nowhere else to put them.

  2. Lewis White says:

    A big thank you to former Cllr Jerry Fitzpatrick.
    Certainly, Covid has caused difficulties, and one hopes that a really sensible, robust design solution is identified soon.

    As to cost, a capital cost of a “special solution” such as spoecial bins or enclosures–or tiwice a week collections of rubbish- must suerly be weighed up against the ongoing cost of cleaning up the mess resulting from seagull and fox-shredded plastic bags, and the cost of preventing/ cleaning up after rats.

    Is there also a nominal “Environmental Cost” such as loss of amenity suffered by residents — how would cost this (eg £100 per day per square metre of rubbish strewn footway?) I do not know.

    This is a public heath issue, not just “clean streets” issue.

    There must be dozens of places in London and elsewhere in the UK where the very same problems exist, and the same types of flats with steps and basements and no street-level strorage areas.

    Surely, someone must have already cracked the issues, and designed a good solution?

    • What the former councillor fails to state is that the Binmageddon failures on Oval Road are repeated on (mainly terraced) streets throughout Croydon, after the unfunniest comedy double act since the Chuckle Brothers, Steve Iles and Stuart Collins, allowed rubbish contractors Veolia to put together a “desk top study” of the borough which was obviously and blatantly inadequate.

      Thus, for the convenience of the contractors, pavements across Croydon have large wheelie bins left across the pathway for weeks on end, and have now become a permanent fixture, an eyesore and an impediment.

      Bag trials elsewhere see some residents of flats allowed to leave bin bags on the pavement overnight (with all the attendant mess and rodent issues) awaiting a daily collection, even when their landlords have provided bin stores to the back of the properties.

      And yes, 2020 was tough for all concerned during the pandemic. But Veolia got a £21million “uplift” to their contract, courtesy of the very generous Messrs Iles and Collins. But for what? Was there any improvement in Veolia’s service (Jerry says not)? Were the streets swept more frequently? Just what are the Council Tax-payers of Croydon getting for this money?

      The council, with Collins as a cabinet member, became the servant of the contractor with Veolia. Their being accountable through the SLWP – an organisation that part-time Mayor Perry can’t even say correctly – gives them a convenient remoteness from accountability.

      It’s all a bit rubbish.

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