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Council’s Attempts To Tackle Student Summer Exodus Is Rubbish

Monday July 20, 2015

Damiano Rea, managing director at Heaton Property Ltd, says Newcastle City Council’s plans to tackle excess waste during the student summer exodus is just rubbish.

THE summer student exodus is upon us, and so starts what is an increasingly depressing sight of excess rubbish and overflowing bins on the region’s streets.

Permanent residents of popular student areas such Heaton, Jesmond, Gosforth and countless others across Newcastle are fed up at the annual sight of unwanted mattresses and piles of black bags all over their streets and back lanes.

Let’s be clear. Some students leave a clean and tidy apartment, but there are many others who don’t see it as their problem, and now Newcastle City Council’s baffling new instructions will only make matters worse.

At Heaton Property, we were well used to sending round our teams in vans to dispose of excess rubbish. But, according to Newcastle City Council’s environmental department, that’s now the wrong thing to do.

Here’s the barmy ruling: As soon as a landlord or letting agent touches this waste, it’s then classed as ‘commercial waste’. So we have to call the Council’s ‘Envirocall’ to request they come and collect it. However, Envirocall can take anything up to ten days to collect it. In the summer heat, smell and infestation becomes rife and the Council then has an even bigger problem on their hands.

They used to allow us to take the waste to their household recycling centres, provided you had a permit. This year, they’ve removed that permit scheme. Fortnightly collections, compounded now with the inability for us and other responsible landlords to be able to take waste away, is going to have a devastating effect on the cleanliness of our streets.

At Heaton Property, we don’t have time to wait for Envirocall’s ten-day action period. Tenants move out and we have others waiting to move straight in. I won’t allow them to move into their new property with a back yard full of rubbish and stained furniture. So we’re expected to stump up the private costs of skip rental (£160) and around £20 per mattress to dispose of them too.

It’s not responsible of anyone to leave rubbish out that long, but waiting for Envirocall to take action just seems crazy. When they are called into action, they then become detective, check through the left rubbish and issue the new tenant (not the old one responsible) with a fine for fly tipping. The real culprits are long gone and the new tenant’s first job in their new home is protracted legal wranglings with the council.

Welcome to Newcastle!

Newcastle City Council addressed the issues raised by fortnightly bin collection and resulting overflowing rubbish in the streets by appointing a snappily titled ‘Senior Neighbourhood Manager for Environmental Awareness and Behavioural Change’. Just trips of the tongue, huh?

To date the only evidence I have of an attempt to change behaviour is for them to issue leaflets with pictures of rats on. Let me tell you, that has zero impact on the streets.

So here’s my idea. Why doesn’t the council devote its resources to rubbish and bin collection, rather than making up foot-long job titles for positions that appear to do little to tackle the problem. Allow the refuse collectors to do their job by actually collecting the excess rubbish, rather than leaving it until somebody complains. Then taking ten days to do anything about it.

Landlords and lettings agents would like nothing better than to see the streets around our properties clean and tidy. They call us stakeholders, but our stake appears to be reduced to negativity in discussions and an expectation of poor service as the norm.

I will gladly volunteer my time and services to head the initiative to improve things from our side. I shall call myself ‘The People’s Representative for Cleanliness and Righteous Behaviour Czar.’

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