Council U-turn means householders may have to pay for rubbish dumped in alleyways
SHOULD 66-year-old Margaret Atkin be forced to pay for rancid rubbish dumped in an alleyway next to her home by filthy fly-tippers?
That is the question being posed by ward councillor Steve Beasant today, following a controversial U-turn by North East Lincolnshire Council.
As reported, at a meeting in December, councillors pledged to protect residents living next to alleyways from being fined for rubbish dumped there by others.
But members of the council's cabinet have now decided it would be "impossible" to target those responsible for the waste and have instead voted to penalise householders.
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As reported, alleyways in the borough are normally privately owned, which means responsibility for their maintenance and upkeep rests with the owner whose property adjoins it.
Mrs Atkin, who has lived in Eleanor Street with her husband Malcolm, 68, for 45 years, has branded the decision "ridiculous".
The pensioner – whose property backs onto an alleyway with Buller Street – said: "I would be very angry if I was fined for the rubbish.
"I've been out trying to clear some of it up with the help of some local kids but there's too much for me to get rid of it completely.
"It's ridiculous to fine innocent people who don't want the rubbish there instead of those who put it there."
Mr Beasant, who represents the East Marsh ward, where the majority of homes back onto alleyways, said it is an "unfair" decision.
"It will not be the fly-tippers but the good, responsible people who are hit in the pocket by this decision," he said.
"There are alleyways on my ward which have been waiting to be cleared since March and the residents find it very upsetting that they are left in a state when they are not responsible for the rubbish.
"I will be very, very annoyed if these residents now get fined for the rubbish when they have reported it and tried to get it removed.
"All alleyways should be cleared free of charge until the council comes up with a fair and equitable way to deal with the problem."
But clearing fly-tipped rubbish is already costing the council dear.
As reported, the authority's Community Pride team has cleared rubbish from 287 privately-owned alleyways so far this year – at a cost of up to £1,000 per clearance.
In 2010-11, the authority cleared 355 alleyways and in 2009-10, 74 were cleared.
It is believed that fining residents for allowing rubbish to accumulate in the alleyways could save the authority about £350,000 each year.
Councillor Mick Burnett, deputy leader of the council, says the authority cannot continue paying for private land to be cleared.
He added: "This is clearly a growing problem and something has got to be done to tackle it.
"We have got to make cuts to the budget and clearing rubbish from privately-owned areas can no longer be a council priority.
"The problem is going to be impossible to cure if we concentrate on looking for the people responsible for the rubbish. Instead, we hope the owners of the land will embrace collective responsibility and work together to clear the alleyways so that no fines are handed out.
"We have had to make a decision and I think this is the right one. We need to make people more responsible for the land that they own."
Council leader Chris Shaw told the cabinet meeting it is time to "grasp the nettle" and deal with the issue of alleyway clearance.
Meanwhile, Councillor David Bolton, who is also on the cabinet, added: "This is a really serious problem and it is getting worse.
"We need more community involvement to help tackle it."
Is your home adjacent to an alleyway? Did you know you are legally responsible for it? Send your views to newsdesk @grimsbytelegraph.co.uk or call 01472 372236.
HOW the new procedure for alleyway clearance will work:
1) Identification and prioritisation: Alleyways will be identified for action through ward meetings, complaints from the public, referrals from partner agencies and neighbouring inspections.
2) Initial intervention: The alleyway will be cleared free of charge on the first occasion. Enforcement officers will carry out an inspection of neighbouring properties and identity gardens and adjoining land in need of clearance. Information packs, including relevant enforcement notices, will be issues to all adjoining properties. Signs will be placed in the street promoting Community Pride and encouraging reporting of offences.
3) Follow-up intervention: Officers will revisits to ensure all notices have been adhered to. Where they have not been complied with, enforcement will be undertaken, including necessary works and recharging. Officers will report back to neighbourhood management meetings.
4) Regular follow-up inspections: Regular patrols will make sure the alleyway maintains the required standards. Shortcomings will be addressed through further intervention and enforcement.