Turning negative situations around. An occasional online account of every day struggles for people in toxic situations, Toxic Lives focuses on those things that affect mental and physical well-being – pulling together the information needed to tackle poisonous situations in the most likely places and campaigning for change, so that people can get on with their lives, free from interference or stress.
Throughout October and November the campaign has kept up correspondence. A physical check of the situation locally shows little improvement however some change has been noted and rubbish still comes and some of it goes. The fact is there remains on the ground in our community a significant amount of rubbish – enough to affect people’s well-being and mindset. Nobody wants to live in a Fly Tipping Hotspot.
Last week Adam Holloway MP reported that a meeting with the enforcement manager for Gravesham gave details of the issues facing the enforcement team. This came after Kent Police reported two successful investigations via Facebook. Public concern was echoed in the size of fines and the limited powers of the enforcement team. We think the criminal justice system aren’t supporting the community as fines and punishments are not enough to deter further dumping on public and private land or pay for the damage and clearance. The meeting suggested that the performance of enforcement can be improved to the point of catching people at it.
In November, as the autumn leaves clear, rubbish that has been in situ under the bushes for four years or more comes back into sight. This particular hotspot has been visited several times to be “cleared” (even this year). The content comprises a number of long term deposits in place for more than two years.
100m further on, a Fly-Tipped deposit of approx. half a tonne was made, and cleared within three weeks. It was deposited right next to another dump comprising several years’ worth of uncollected mixed waste – about a tonne. Only the most recent deposit was cleared. The collecting vehicle drove by several other deposits in the lane without collecting them, much the same as we reported in September.
To us, enforcement is about getting the workforce to do its job, and get it right first time, not just trying to catch people at it.
Delivering a Borough to be Proud of
We wrote to Gravesham Council who claim in their 2020 Edition Annual Report 2019/2020 that our streets are now cleaner after investing in street cleaning teams. Like it promised during the local election. To us the clearance of all the rubbish from the streets of Gravesham seems like a good aim requiring more than £10000 investment and a program consisting of a planned set of work packages.
Because of the state of our particular hotspots we see “same old”. Not convinced by the situation on the ground whether we are being bamboozled, We have asked for sight of the plan.
Due to the amount of rubbish still being deposited, and the hap hazard nature and timing of its removal we do not see how the borough will actually come clean or when.
So far there is no response to this simple request and our plan is to present our petition to the council in early 2021. What we want to see is service data, together with the plan, with resource plans, work packages and timescales, communications plan, and issue and risk mitigation etc. Also physical evidence that financial waste is being eliminated while the tip is open and any barriers to its use – such as the KCC rubble tax are minimised.
One more thing. We do see change. The recent appointment of a caretaker in a local estate has made an impact on the overall condition of the area. This is the type of change we would welcome – somebody with an interest and the means to deal with it there and then.
Thank you for supporting us. Our petition stands at 130 people and has been running for four years. Please share locally and encourage friends to sign it. We are grateful for the support of Facebook groups Gravesham Then and Now and Gravesend Riverside Town. We also post in Gravesham Borough Councils Facebook Page but rarely get a response.
This report is made on behalf of the Come Clean! Gravesham Campaign, whose petition stands at 113 to date. The campaign began 4 years ago in Westcourt, in the Borough of Gravesham, started by neighbours who found themselves living in an uncontrolled Fly-Tipping Hotspot. The petition can be viewed at the following link.
The current aim is to support the delivery of a clean environment by central and local government, in line with their objectives for safer and healthy communities, We work by highlighting the reality of the situation and identifying the issues until they lead to change.
This report, compiled between 28th September and 6th October 2020, is one of a series highlighting the persistent fly-tipping and littering in the Westcourt area.
The focus this time is on Doria Drive which is typically as fouled, as the rest of Westcourt.
(Previous reports circulated during 2019 and 2020, have focused on uncleared Fly-Tipping Hotspots between Medhurst Crescent, Barr Rd, Freeman and Cruden Road.)
In Doria Drive, the area which our school children travel on foot between home and school, (which is often their play space), is heavily fouled. This hasn’t always been so.
There is the air of a wilful decision to withhold cleaning services in this area brought about by frequent visits by council owned vehicles and the ever present number of rubbish dumps.
A good deal of the material being deposited is household waste, however notably there is a good deal of rubble, and some tyres in the mix. These are items which the community specifically asked KCC not to tax people to dispose of. We said imposing a rubble and tyre tax would create a residue in our environment, but this fact was washed over in the decision making, has since been denied to us by KCC.
We were recently asked “what sort of mindset dumps rubbish on the street and walks away?” This is not for us to answer. What we do know is that in Westcourt, from reception class through to senior school, our children traverse heaps of rubbish dumped on our green space and filthy walkways on a daily basis. This risks the situation becoming normalised and “OK”.
Because living in other people’s rubbish creates an impact on self-esteem, well-being and a visible inequality, it is not OK.
It is not OK to leave long standing rubbish in our environment. For one thing, it sends the wrong message, contradicting the environmental teaching of schools, and honest families.
Here we report the condition of Doria Drive in a snapshot taken over the period of a week – starting on 28th Sept 2020.
Stuart Dixon FRSA, who wrote the report said “The quantity of rubbish in the area sometime fluctuates, but it is everywhere. You see council workers turn up and remove some, occasionally, but they often leave behind more than they take. The area never looks completely clear. People need a more permanent and lasting solution that delivers a clean environment, even under the bushes.
The promise made about our green spaces and fly-tipping during the Labour Party Election campaign of 2019 should be upheld – but there is no sign yet”.
The area studied is highlighted in the google map below. It extends from the Public Walkway between St Margaret’s Crescent and Tymberwood Academy onto Doria Drive and towards Medhurst Crescent. The fouled paths are used by adults and school children at all times of day. Primarily they form a “cut through” between Thamesview school and Valley Drive for older children. The walkways around the school connect several dead end car parks to both entrances of the Tymberwood Academy on the northern boundary of the school. These are primarily used by the younger school children. The inbound and outbound footfall is a mixture of all age groups in places.
The walkway from Doria Drive to The gate at Tymberwood Academy deserves a special mention because it always contains various deposits of fly tipped waste and litter, which was partially cleared on 28th and 29th September.
We commence reporting at 9:40AM on 28th September, at the point where the walkway converges onto Doria Drive at the north western corner of the school grounds, where a half empty Council Waste Carrier, registration KM17 FOU was parked.
Tracking back along the only possible access route for this vehicle, photographs of fly – tipped waste were taken. See Appendix 1.
These pictures show many different sites in Doria Drive, mostly long-term dumps of household rubbish, but some containing a large percentage of rubble, a couple of tyres. We noticed this also in our last report. Rubbish was spread from the car park all the way from Medhurst Crescent. It is reasonable to assume the crew saw all of this as it drove past.
The sites were revisited by us between 3 and 3:45 PM that day, at which time none of the rubbish photographed had been cleared. Photographs were retaken at the end of the day. The vehicle returned to the same place at 0845 the following day. Nothing changed.
On both occasions the vehicle above parked with the passenger door open over a pile of litter. The crew engaged in litter clearance in the Walkway running south from this point. It is reasonable to assume the passenger crewman stepped onto this rubbish as he entered and exited the vehicle. Yet this litter was not included in the clearance.
Walkway between St Margaret’s Crescent and Tymberwood Academy
The surface rubbish from the parking point for approx. 100m back south west along the walkway had been picked by the end of the 28th. The vehicle returned on 29th.
Following this work Photo’s 8 to 10 were taken. They show views of the walkway on 5th October and highlight some of the remaining rubbish.
At the time of writing the current condition of this walkway is littered with ingrained dirt and litter, piled along the edges. It should be noted the path is wide enough to accommodate a motorised road sweeper.
Fly-Tipping Incidents between 28th Sept and 5th October
The route between Medhurst Crescent and the Car park was re-visited on 5th October. There was more rubbish, the bulk of which had been delivered during two fresh fly-tipping incidents over the weekend. See photo 10 and 11:
Photo 10 below shows the Walkway blocked behind St Margarets’s Crescent – reported by a passer-by on Friday 2nd. October.
Photo 11 shows a bulk dump of household rubbish in Cervia Way in the car park adjacent the rear gate to Tymberwood Academy occurring over the weekend.
The photographs presented here represent opportunities for the council to do, and be seen to do its job.
When the reality is viewed in the light of recent publicity broadcast via the councils FACEBOOK feed, the inequality of the situation comes to light.
This is a presentation showing the council doing its job and doing it well, especially in the area of waste disposal and street cleaning. While this may be the case in some areas, a short walk between the two areas South and North of Thamesview School and Tymberwood Academy show a different story.
Hands Off Policy
Photo 1 below shows approximately Half a tonne of Fly – Tipped Rubble dumped several months ago. We have seen and reported this at other sites. This implies that Gravesham Borough Council has a a selective or hands off policy relating to some fly-tipping sites and types of waste.
Please see photo’s 1 to 4 and note the distance between these sites is approximately 50m.
In the week commencing 7th September a fly-tipped mattress that had lain for several days with the contents of a scattered bin bag was located, mid-way between these locations. It was removed sometime in the week commencing 14th Sept. The fact is, it was there at the same time as the rubble in photo 1.
The service level agreement between the council and its customer, the voter is at fault. In breifly studying the system for reporting fly-tipping on Gravesham Borough website, the service level is quoted as “We will send someone out to look at it within 5 days”. No service level for disposing and cleaning up is mentioned, nor is the contract open to public scrutiny. This begs the question how does the council – the service provider, deliver value for money and compensate victims for poor service.
Mothers and children have been stepping through the mess left by the fly-tipper responsible for the dump at photo 10 for six days at the time this report was published.
Report compiled by S Dixon FRSA
Photo 1 (above) approx a half tonne Rubble
Photo 3 – Rubble
Photo 4 – Rubble
Photo 5- Mis-approriated Salt Container filled to overflowing by 6th Oct
I spoke to several of you today and wanted you to have a complete view of why I said what I said.
Firstly I don’t ask for much – as a 65 Year old veteran of more than one nasty little armed conflict, I certainly don’t want to go into conflict with you, when I turn up to dispose of my rubbish.
As a responsible citizen with more rubbish than I could handle; (five heavy waterlogged ex-comfy chairs, a waterlogged and filthy mattress and divan base, and a door,) I reviewed the safest and most economical way to dispose of them and hired a trailer large enough to do the job in the smallest number of trips. Keeping my carbon footprint down (A point in my favour yes?) as well as making it easy for myself after the physical wear and tear of military service.
When I loaded the trailer I was pleased. My own trailer was much smaller and using it would been much more difficult. Two days instead of half a day.
To get to the rear of my house and pick up, I had to negotiate an alleyway. The photo’s below show a couple of skip loads of mixed and bulky household waste which had been fly tipped on what is council property. This has been spoiling our community for several years. I first complained in 2016. See here.
Some of this is newly dumped and some has been there for years.
Some people who lived here before us tell me you (the council) regularly cleaned this area until a few years ago.
From our point of view, the right place for rubbish is in the recycling system. As you can see it doesn’t get there by itself and if you (the council) don’t move it, who will? Which is why I think the following is not acceptable.
It was colleague A who said “you can’t bring that in here – your trailers too large”. Beg pardon? I sized it deliberately from available resources. 8′ Long, 4′ wide and 4’6″‘ High. This allowed me to make two runs, One more than I would have liked (the latter with only an armchair and a door.)
When colleague B came over to reinforce this message, I didn’t take kindly to also being told to remove the trailer off the site and load the mattress into my car and bring it back. Couldn’t see the point of that.
Thanks for the advice but I hired the trailer to keep my vehicle clean. I was naturally disappointed to learn that the trailer was too big (IMHO it wasn’t big enough, but it was easily handled by one person.) That didn’t make sense. I didn’t see any notices about trailer sizes on the perimeter fence or gate. I was really disappointed when colleague A said I couldn’t come back in with the second load.
Does Size Really Matter?
Thankfully colleague C was a bit more helpful. In the spirit of Christmas he “allowed” me to unload and make the second trip.
What I didn’t say was this: When our back streets and estates are covered in rubbish do you honestly think it’s appropriate to give people grief for bringing stuff in, in a marginally over-sized trailer? We really need to be setting an example and getting waste into the recycling system efficiently and effectively.
Notes for Gravesham BC and Kent CC
Your re-cycling policy is failing. People are living in among other peoples rubbish. Your staff need to be able recognise and encourage responsible and ethical waste re-cycling. Its that or the street or countryside. Not acceptable.
A cross Kent campaign is coming to Gravesham in July 2017 promising to clean up. This involves a smartphone app called littergram which posts the location and pictures to the councils involved. The good news for Gravesham is the borough council are involved, in July 2017. Are you ready?, Don’t wait for July Download the app and make it a success.
As much of our hidden rubbish dumps are also covered by weeds during the summer, don’t let this stop you. Give a short description when you send your reports in.