A COUNCIL has been criticised for spending over a £1,000 a day on closing a road to keep a recycling centre open – costing the taxpayers an estimated £162,000 so far.

Potterhouse Lane household waste recycling centre in Pity Me - one of the busiest sites in County Durham - had to change working practices because of Covid. When the site reopened on May 18, Durham County Council closed Potterhouse Lane and create a queuing system on the A167.

Lib Dem Councillor Mark Wilkes, shadow portfolio holder for neighbourhoods, said local councillors had raised concerns for months over the closure and challenged the cost of having someone sitting throughout the day at the junction of the A167 in Pity Me.

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A Freedom of Information answer to a resident revealed the true cost to the taxpahyer of the closure and was the “last straw”, he added.

Cllr Wilkes said: “Every day contracted staff sit in a vehicle at the A167 to make sure noone uses the road, including it having cones and barriers.

“Spending over £1,068 a day on closing the road has so far cost over £162,000. There must be a better and cheaper way to do this. This is not acceptable for the taxpayer.”

He added: “We have made suggestions, such as looking at a booking system and other possible means people can dispose of their waste.

“There will be people taking garden waste, who could consider composting.

“The council should look at the way the tip is operating and see if there are other alternative ways of getting people through the tip more quickly, because they must have learned from what has gone on over the last six months.

“We have also suggested putting lighting in so they can extend the hours slightly. The tip started closing at 3.30pm on 1st October when it was still light for several hours after.”

Lib Dem group leader Cllr Amanda Hopgood added: “We have asked again for an urgent review of what is going on at this and other sites.”

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Oliver Sherratt, head of environment at the council said: “We have had to adjust operations at all our Household Waste Recycling Centres in order to stay open for our public during this unprecedented time.

“Measures have included limiting access to the sites at any one time to ensure social distancing and a safe environment for both users and staff. Inevitably this has resulted in a slower through put of traffic and queuing. This was anticipated and bespoke traffic management plans were produced for each site.

“At Pity Me, the only safe way to prevent queuing on the A167 and all of the obvious resulting risks, was a partial road closure and one-way system. This has operated without issue, allowing the public to safely enter and exit the site.

"This scheme, including signage, cones and trained and insured staff, has generated a cost, but without these measures the site would not be safe to open.

“We continue to explore alternative options, including a booking system. However, evidence from other local authorities demonstrates such systems are not without their own range of issues. We will continue to review activity and demand on site and will adjust traffic management measures when we are able and when it is safe to do so.”