Stay of execution for Southwold household waste recycling centre

SOUTHWOLD'S household waste centre has been given a stay of execution – for the next six months at least.

The site in Blyth Road is to remain open until September, after Waveney District Council agreed to provide �130,000 to keep it running.

The site was one of seven Suffolk recycling centres earmarked for closure in May as part of the county council efforts to cut �42.5m from its budget. But, in the face of local protests and fears about increased flytipping, the district council confirmed yesterday that it had agreed to 'save' the sites in Southwold and Beccles while a long-term solution is sought.

At a meeting in Beccles on Wednesday, Waveney's leader Mark Bee, right, and its director of resources Alan McFarlane met town councillors and the county council's portfolio holder for waste, Lisa Chambers, to discuss options.

It was agreed that, subject to approval, Waveney would provide the money needed to keep the two sites open for six months.

Mr Bee said this would 'buy time' to consider establishing a local consortium to manage the sites long-term.

'It is absolutely clear that our communities have come to depend on the recycling centres and we are determined to take steps which will help them to remain open,' said Mr Bee. 'In my view, this reprieve buys the sites some time and gives groups or organisations, who may be interested in taking them on, the opportunity to explore their options. Personally, I think it would be fantastic if local consortiums could come together to save the sites – a real Big Society initiative for the benefit of local communities.'

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Mr Bee also recognised that closing the waste sites would increase the likelihood of illegal fly-tipping – leaving Waveney and local landowners to clear up and foot the bill. 'Additionally, we would find people recycling less, which would affect the money we receive in credits for our excellent recycling performance,' he said.

'By contributing funds which would be generated from existing savings accrued elsewhere, we would actually be preventing potential problems.'

The announcement was welcomed by Guy Mitchell, of Southwold and Reydon's chamber of trade. He told The Journal: 'It's good news, of course, but what we need is a long-term solution.

'Hopefully, the next six months will be time enough to put together an action plan that secures the future of the site. I expect to see plenty of pledges to keep the site open come election time.'

When the county council announced its proposals to save �800,000-a-year by closing seven of its recycling centres, the authority said it aimed to ensure that the majority of residents still lived within a 20-minute journey of a waste site.

Mr Mitchell, the town's sub-postmaster who also runs Spots in High Street, added: 'Speaking as a resident of Reydon, we are meant to be a green county. It's just too far to travel to Leiston or Lowestoft.

'As a business owner I'd be happy to pay to use the facility on an ad-hoc basis. Perhaps, if the council were to open it on a commercial basis, that would provide enough revenue to keep it open.'

Suffolk's decision last month has been met with a mixture of anger and exasperation in Southwold and the surrounding area, where there are already concerns about the long-term future of the town's library, and for several bus services.

Speaking at last week's town council meeting, John Miller told fellow members: 'We all know very well that as a direct result of this there will be fly-tipping all the way down Blyth Road. It will become a dumping ground. What's more is that we've just spent some �40,000 resurfacing that road and Waveney has just upgraded the dump itself. First libraries and now this, whatever next?'

Southwold mayor Sue Allen told the meeting: 'You'd need a Ferrari to get to Leiston in 19 minutes.'

Meanwhile, a protest against the planned closure is due to take place outside the Southwold site today. From 1pm people opposed to the plans are meeting MEP Richard Howitt to voice their concerns. Last month, Mr Howitt voted on new Europe-wide targets to increase recycling of electrical goods – items that can currently be taken to Southwold's recycling site in Blyth Road.

He said: 'Across Europe there are plans in place to increase recycling, yet here in Suffolk local residents are being put off recycling by closing a local and convenient facility.

'Local people have played their part in protecting the environment and taking on recycling in recent years. It would be hugely detrimental to see all that hard work destroyed by such a short-sighted decision.'

l Postbox - pages 22/23