An option to close Crawley’s rubbish tip for part of the week is ‘sheer insanity’ according to Labour councillors.
Last year West Sussex County Council decided to shut its Household Waste Recycling Sites (HWRSs) for two days a week apart from those at Westhampnett, Crawley, and Burgess Hill, which remain open all week.
At the same time charges for waste such as DIY, plasterboard, soil and hard core were introduced, while opening hours were reduced at all West Sussex HWRSs.
These charges were suspended in April, and the county council has now set up a task and finish group to look at winter opening hours.
One of the options is ‘whether any of the sites need to stay open seven days a week’, a spokesman said.
The spokesman added: “A significant change like this will be looked at very carefully, considering current usage and ensuring reasonably near alternative sites are available on any closed days.”
Councillor Michael Jones (Lab, Southgate and Gossops Green) said: “I can see my local residents in Crawley reacting furiously if the county council tells them they will have to use another location, it is after all the biggest site in the county.
“It is sheer insanity to be even thinking about reducing the days it is open.
“Any more reductions in the winter opening hours at any of the sites will also be unwelcome, particularly if they are rushing it for financial purposes rather than what is in the best interests of the service.”
He suggested the council’s leadership had ‘clearly failed to learn from their past mistakes on the cutbacks to our waste and recycling centres, and they risk repeating them to even more disastrous effect’.
The reason given for keeping Crawley’s HWRS open seven days a week is because it acts as a waste transfer station for household waste collections carried out by the borough council.
Cllr Jones asked what had changed and suggested queues to enter County Oak were ‘heavy at the best of times’ and were noticeably worse on the days that rubbish tips in Horsham and East Grinstead are closed.
He added: “The more miserable the West Sussex Tory leadership make the experience for residents to get access to the household waste and recycling centres, the less likely people are going to use them and all the more likely that we will see further unwelcome increases in flytipping across the county.”
Meanwhile Councillor Geraint Thomas (Lab, Northgate), cabinet member for environmental services and sustainability at Crawley Borough Council, argued against any reduction in service provided at the Crawley HWRS in Metcalf Way.
He pointed out that the facility was recently opened and asked why WSCC would consider shutting it for a day a week considering the amount of capital investment in the site.
He also raised concerns about queuing traffic on the days it is open, the potential for an increase in fly tipping, and the impact on staff working at the tip.
He added: “Is this really the way for the county council to encourage us to dispose of our no longer wanted items in responsibly -socially and environmentally?”
Cllr Thomas also queried how much charges had raised before they were suspended, and thought that since all payments were by credit card it should be easy to refund them.
But last month Deborah Urquhart, cabinet member for the environment, said: “It was quite legal to charge at that point so now we are not obliged to refund it.”
Commenting on the task and finish group, she added: “We will be looking to review those hours, not a one size fits all approach but to see what we can come up with in the financial envelope.”
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