THE YES VOTE: Over the weekend of March 7, Oxford Civic Society organised two litter-picking groups in Blackbird Leys and Greater Leys for the annual OxClean Spring Clean, says Rosanne Bostock, organiser of OxClean and member of the Oxford Civic Society.
While we have been litter-picking across Oxford for several years, it was the first time we had done it in the area.
We went from the end of Dunnock Way right along to Fry’s Hill Park.
Superficially Blackbird Leys is very clean, and the council has put a lot of effort into making the area look nice with clean roads and so on, but the undergrowth and footpaths are full of rubbish.
It quickly became clear on our litter pick that there is a problem in the area with disposal of larger items of rubbish.
Apart from garden refuse and smaller bits of litter like fast food wrappers, there were much larger items hidden in the shrubberies.
We saw pushchairs, beds, mattresses, bikes, paint cans and suitcases in one small area. In an ideal world people would ring the council when they need to get rid of large items, and the council would come to collect them.
But they can charge, which lots of people do not want or cannot afford to pay.
Not even I, a member of OxClean, have the council’s telephone number or email address at my fingertips.
When you do go on the website it is complex and daunting, and a nightmare of complications.
Similarly, when you phone the Town Hall they are slow to answer and you just get presented with endless extensions.
I live in North Oxford, and my 85-year-old neighbour, who is unwell, has moth-eaten carpets in his driveway. His children work full-time and don’t want to put the grubby things in their cars.
I can’t even bear to think of him trying to ask the council to come and collect these carpets because it’s so complicated.
I think they should bring skips into Blackbird Leys so people can dump their rubbish there rather than fields.
Apparently this has been done elsewhere, Wheatley for instance.
It could be a permanent fixture, or skips could be rotated between sites – say by the Dunnock Way NHS car park one week and in Long Ground another. This would give Blackbird Leys residents the opportunity to get rid of rubbish on a regular basis.
Possibly the council, or the housing associations, would pay for this. I don’t believe it would be an expensive scheme. This would need to be discussed with the local councillors and community officer, which I fully intend to do.
While a skip is not pretty, nor is litter or fly-tipping. There are also many health hazards with this litter just lying about.
People have raised concerns that people would travel to dump rubbish there – I doubt that people from other parts of Oxford would bother to come to deposit their rubbish in the skips. At the very least it is worth considering on a trial basis.
THE NO VOTE: While I do not wish to dismiss this idea out of hand, I think there are several issues that need to be addressed before even contemplating such a scheme, says Rae Humberstone, Oxfordshire county councillor for Blackbird Leys.
Where would the skips be located? Would residents be willing to have a skip placed outside or near their home?
These questions can only be answered by the residents, after proper consultation, and not by any outside body, regardless of how good their intentions.
If such a scheme bore fruit, then it would have to be for one skip only and it would have to be in a central location. However, the only suitably central location in Blackbird Leys is the leisure centre but that is now a building site and will remain so for the duration of the work on the new pool.
How long would the skips be in place? No longer than a few hours, say four to six, would be my answer, certainly not overnight and definitely not over a period of days. Such a move would make any location a magnet for every fly-tipper in the county, let alone the city.
How would such a scheme be policed?
Any such scheme would have to be closely overseen, to prevent the dumping of hazardous waste.
The consequences of a child, or anybody for that matter, coming into contact with hazardous materials does not bear thinking about.
So who would police the scheme? Environmental Health, our already very busy recycling teams, the skip suppliers?
Also, my fear is that such a scheme would detract from our existing bulk collection service and that some households might use the skips to dump household waste (black plastic bags, recyclables, etc) in the skips rather than in their wheelie bins.
However, I concede if that meant the difference between a correctly filled bin and an overflowing one it would probably be the lesser of two evils.
So who would be expected to pick up the tab for such an operation, the city’s council tax payers?
I doubt very much whether they would consider themselves honoured and privileged enough to be asked to cough up for a service they’re already paying for.
The city council is already investing heavily in the Cleaner Greener initiative, so that’s probably not an option either.
Maybe the skip operators would consider picking up the bill? However, when last I checked I don’t believe any of them had yet been awarded charitable status.
In closing I have to say that this scheme, like all well-intentioned initiatives, suffers from too much theoretical pipe-dreaming and not enough practical problem-solving.
However, having said that, I am willing to carry out a feasibility study on the basis of one skip, in one location, realistically funded.