Lifeline to save threatened tip

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GARSTANG’S tip could be handed an unexpected 11th-hour reprieve – even though county council bosses are almost certain to confirm its closure tomorrow.

The Courier learned late last week that a county council report, published following the recent public consultation, is recommending the Claughton household waste centre be closed, despite a huge public protest that saw more than 7,500 people sign a petition calling for it to be saved.

A plea by members of the STING (Save Tip in Garstang) group for a delay in the closure decision was also rejected on Monday, leaving many resigned to the idea the closure would be rubber-stamped tomorrow by the county council deputy leader County Coun Albert Atkinson, meaning it would be shut in March next year.

But, as The Courier went to press this week, it was revealed a private operator is seriously interested in taking over and running the Claughton centre.

If takeover talks are successful, it is possible the tip could continue to operate after the county council pulls out in March.

Wyre councillor Roger Brooks, who has been a leading campaigner in the fight to save the tip, told The Courier yesterday he had held three ‘very constructive’ discussions with representatives of a private waste management and recycling company, which is looking to take over Claughton and one other Lancashire tip currently threatened with closure under the county’s cost cutting review.

Coun Brooks said: “They are very, very serious. They are experienced operators and, based on their own calculations, they obviously believe they can make it pay.’’

The operators are understood to have made an initial approach to the county council to discuss their proposal.

Coun Brooks added: “This is far from a done deal, but it is grounds for some optimism.’’

Full details of the hoped-for deal have yet to be revealed, but the idea has raised the community’s spirits after last week’s recommendation to press on with the closure.

If, as expected, County Coun Atkinson approves the tip closure tomorrow, the Claughton centre will shut to the public on March 19, and be cleared by early April.

The hope of Coun Brooks, and the company with which he has been in talks, is that the company will then take over the site, and run it as a private household waste and recycling centre.

The county’s closure recommendation, issued last Thursday, confirms the recommendation to close Claughton, as well as tips at Great Harwood, Bacup and Colne.

The new report angered tip campaigners, who claim the county council has failed to consider their concerns, and has “ridden roughshod” over the views of the thousands of residents who responded to the county’s consultation.

Campaigner Robert Lobell said: “We find it extremely disappointing and frustrating that, despite making a conscious effort to produce as balanced a response as possible to the original recommendations, the post-consultation report has ignored much of the evidence we presented.

“The post-consultation report has not addressed many of the concerns raised in our original submission, and even contains admissions that some of the “facts” it based its recommendation for closure on were just plain wrong.

“We believe, as the vast majority in the Garstang area do, that Garstang HWRC should stay open and that LCC should engage in some creative thinking to allow this to happen.”

The county report acknowledges the original calculations on journey times for Garstang residents to travel to alternative sites were inappropriate for their intended purpose.

But it adds: “However, when taking into account all of the factors used in selecting proposed closures, this increased journey time would not warrant a change to the proposals.”

That explanation has angered Mr Lobell who says: “Despite this serious admission of the use of inappropriate data, which would have gone unnoticed if the vigilance of the STING and other observers had not picked it up, the post-consultation report blithely concludes that after recalculating (journey distances/times) according to another set of dubious criteria that a new figure, more than eight percentage points higher than their original false figure (22.4% compared with 14.6%), is still justifiable to continue with their original closure recommendation.’’

Head of county’s waste management team, Mr Steve Scott, said: “We’re grateful to everyone who has taken the time to respond to the consultation.

“It’s clear from the letters and emails we’ve received that people value the HWRC service very highly and we accept that any closures will have an impact on the local communities they serve.

“We have read and carefully analysed all the responses and carried out further detailed work on some of the main concerns people have raised, which will inform the decision to be made by the deputy leader.”

He said people’s main concern was that they would have further to travel if their local HWRC was closed.

He added: “The report contains an analysis of journey times to alternative sites, taking into account that journey times will differ throughout the day.”

The report downplays the fears of an increase in flytipping once the tip is closed, saying there is “evidence that fly tipping in Lancashire is on a downward trend and that, in general, previous HWRC closures have not resulted in a significant rise in fly tipping.”

The closure of household waste centres will save £520,000.

The council needs to save £179m over the current three year budget to balance the books.

The council says the earmarked closures, all within districts which currently have two such centres – Wyre’s other one being at Fleetwood – will “have the least impact on the service overall”.

The county says Wyre Council’s kerbside recycling collection, introduced after Claughton tip opened, means people can now recycle most items at home.

The county says: “The role of HWRCs has evolved and their principal purpose is now to allow people to dispose of bulky items which can’t be handled by kerbside recycling collections.”