A COUNCIL has dismissed criticism after indiscriminately posting notices threatening £1,000 fines to residents, saying its tough approach on tackling the persistent issue of fly-tipped waste in back lanes is proving both effective and popular.

Darlington Borough Council’s deputy leader Councillor Jonathan Dulston said serving section 46 notices detailing how householders had to dispose of waste was one of various tools the authority was employing to get a grip on particularly problematic areas of the borough.

He was responding to complaints raised by councillors in the Park East ward after notices were issued to houses in seven streets stating anyone leaving a bin out without its lid fully closed would be committing an offence.

Residents of Bedford Street, Nelson Terrace, Herbert Street, Victoria Embankment, Milner Road, Henderson Street and Grainger Street were also told they could be fined if they did not put waste bins on the back edge of their properties and recycling at the front.

The notices also underlined rules that bins must not be left out earlier than 8pm the night before collections, and that no dead animals, asbestos or unbagged human waste should be put in the bins.

Park East councillor Cyndi Hughes said the notices were officious and threatening and had caused “upset, anger and bewilderment to many law-abiding, refuse and recycling compliant residents”.

The Labour member said: “I know from personal direct contact with many of the residents concerned that the vast majority abide by the rules, yet the notice appears to be a warning to all of them of possible enforcement action to come should they not follow the guidance set out.

“People are genuinely worried that they will be fined for something they are not even aware they are doing.

“Enforcement action should be taken against those who are found to be breaking the rules, not the compliant.”

In response, Cllr Dulston said the Conservative-run council had received numerous complaints over waste in the area, and in particular in back lanes, in recent months.

He said he wanted to reassure residents that although some had felt the notice was strongly worded, they could take comfort the council was dealing with those “who continue to destroy our communities”.

Cllr Dulston said: “We appreciate the blanket approach may capture a lot of people who ordinarily follow the rules, but what we also hope people will understand is that this is a generic letter that goes to everyone in the area.

“That area of Park East is problematic. The fact that we have issued notices to seven streets gives an idea of the level of issue we have.

“I am 110 per cent behind this approach and although Labour councillors say they have been contacted by distressed residents, up until now I have been contacted by one resident, who we will contact and give reassurance to on this process.”

He said a previous Labour administration had used the same Environment Act legislation for a blanket approach by placing a notice in the council’s Town Crier magazine, but the authority had received legal advice to be more specific.”

The council’s community safety cabinet member added: “If we look at our campaign on fly-tipping on social media, people accept that we are taking a very much tougher approach on refuse.

“People say they have never seen the town as clean as it is at the moment. People expect us to take a tough approach.

He said the council was conducting operations to identify offenders in the Park East area, which included numerous covert and overt mobile CCTV cameras.

Cllr Dulston said: “It is extremely difficult to put cameras in every single back lane to tackle this problem.”

He said the council had used the blanket tactic previously in the Northgate and North Road area and had found it had a significant impact.

Liberal Democrat North Road ward councillor Nigel Boddy said fly-tipped waste was an ongoing issue, but there had been a significant improvement in the environment and that any complaints over waste were now dealt with very quickly.

However, he added: “I don’t think people are going to be taking kindly to being served with a notice if they are not responsible.”