Northumberland County Council has announced on Wednesday, April 29 that it will reopen its 12 household waste recovery centres (HWRCs) from Monday, May 4, following an agreement with SUEZ, the company that operates the sites.
They have been closed since Tuesday, March 24, following the Government’s announcement of lockdown measures to limit the spread of coronavirus, but guidance issued last week advised councils they could reopen HWRCs – if social distancing could be maintained.
Following this, agreement to reopen all 12 of Northumberland’s sites has been secured on the back of detailed discussions with SUEZ about how the sites can be run to minimise the risk of spreading Covid-19 and to protect both the public and site staff.
Coun Glen Sanderson, the cabinet member for the environment and local services, praised staff who have led on these discussions, adding: “Our teams have done a fantastic job in continuing to operate full waste collection services throughout this difficult time, as well as keeping our county clean and green despite the circumstances by cutting grass, clearing litter, and undertaking essential road repairs.
“But we know how much the household recovery centres have been missed, and we have pulled out all the stops to get them open.”
The restrictions will see a limit on the number of people who can visit at any one time, with only one person permitted outside each vehicle once on-site. People must stay inside their vehicle while queuing and there will also be new controls on the type of vehicles allowed on site.
There will be traffic management controls in place at each HWRC and visits are only for Northumberland residents – with proof of residence required for what should only be essential visits.
The council has pointed out that Defra guidance outlines that a visit would only be considered essential under the lockdown restrictions if the waste materials cannot be stored at home without causing risk of injury or harm to health.
Council leader Peter Jackson said: “We would ask residents to bear with us as we fine-tune the process during the first few days of operation; we want the sites to work as efficiently as they can, while at the same time prioritising the health and safety of both our staff and our residents.
“I am very pleased that we are moving forward now and I am very grateful to our residents who have shown great patience and resilience throughout these recent unprecedented times.”
The local authority is anticipating that there may be significant demand in the first few days. Should very long queues form, residents may be asked to leave and come back at a later date. Any issues, including waiting times, will be provided through the council’s alerts system.
The sites in Alnwick, Ashington, Berwick, Blyth, Hexham, Morpeth and Prudhoe will be open daily from 8am to 6pm, while those in Allendale, Haltwhistle, Kirkley West Thorn, North Sunderland and Wooler will be open the same hours but only on Fridays through to Mondays.
The HWRCs will only be able to accept bagged general household waste, garden waste, wood and bulky items of household waste such as old furniture.
For more information on all of the rules and restrictions, visit www.northumberland.gov.uk/tip
This news follows Coun Jackson revealing earlier this week that he had written to the chief executive of SUEZ, on the back of residents contacting the county council to express concerns about how they should deal with waste.
There have been general concerns about increased fly-tipping, but earlier this month, a council spokesman said the authority had ‘not noticed any particular increase in fly-tipping since the household waste recycling centres were closed’.
Last week, the public were praised and thanked for their patience, with residents asked to avoid activities that would generate additional waste.
The council has suspended all bulky household waste collections, but bin collections are continuing as normal, including garden waste – although new customers are not able to apply for a garden waste bin at this time.