A TOWN tip has reopened today, allowing residents to dispose of waste for free, and public rubbish and dog poo bins will be emptied as a council reintroduces services stopped due to coronavirus.

Darlington Borough Council's Household Waste Recycling Centre reopens today, garden waste collections will start fortnightly, public waste and dog poo bins will emptied on a limited basis, some flytipping will be cleared and some roads and streets will be cleaned, as well as some grass cutting.

The Northern Echo:

The move comes after John Wade Group, which operates Darlington's tip on behalf of the council, reopened its business-focused Waste Transfer Station at Mewburn Road and let residents use it - for a price.

Darlington Council, however, is bound by the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) to provide places - such as the tip - for residents to get rid of household waste for free.

The council says it was following national 'lockdown' guidance, providing only essential services to keep employees and the public safe. As a result, it took a "difficult decision" and many of Street Scene services were stopped.

Towns across the country have seen an increase in flytipping since stringent measures were introduced.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs issued further guidance on whether tips should be reopened. On April 14, they encouraged councils to do so, if it is safe.

The Northern Echo:

Darlington's services have been under constant review, the council says, with it looking at staff levels, safe methods of working and changes in government guidance.

Councillor Andy Keir, Darlington Council's cabinet member for local services, said they have now the time to develop and implement safe working practices to meet social distancing guidelines and ensure the safety staff and residents.

Here's what services are being restored and to what extent:

  • The tip (Household Waste Recycling Centre) will reopen today, Tuesday, April 28, seven days a week from 8am to 4.30pm but strict social distancing in place which significantly reduced its capacity. The council urges people to travel to the HWRC as a last resort
  • Garden waste collections will commence on a two-weekly cycle from Tuesday, May 12. Residents can find out more at www.darlington.gov.uk/gardenwaste
  • The emptying of public waste and dog poo bins has resumed on a limited basis, though people are urged to take litter and dog waste home
  • A limited service to clear fly tipping and back alleys has resumed
  • Some road and street cleaning will be carried out at reduced levels, while gully emptying will be resumed as soon as possible, though it is not detailed when
  • Limited grass cutting has resumed in priority areas, which includes site lines at road junctions
  • Manual litter picking and bulky waste collections are still on hold as they cannot be operated safely.

Cllr Keir said: “At the start of the lockdown we had to make some difficult decisions to enable us to meet government guidelines while maintaining essential services and supporting our most vulnerable residents.

“A range of factors had to be taken into account such as potential staff shortages due to absences as a result of the virus, as well as staff safety and public safety. A further consideration at the time was the need to free up staff in non-essential services to support those working in essential services and the Community HUB.

“We’ve been keeping things under constant review and now, after five weeks, we’re pleased to be in a position to re-instate some of our Street Scene services. This has been made possible partly due to the support of partners and volunteers in supporting our vulnerable residents and staff absences have been not been as high as anticipated.

“We will need to continue to monitor and review how things are working and adapt as necessary.”

The Northern Echo:

Councillor Heather Scott, leader of the council, added: “I said previously that if we all work together we can get through this and it is down to the excellent partnerships we have, the efforts of volunteers and our amazing staff that we can now re-introduce some services at this time while still maintaining social distancing and the safety of our staff and residents.

“We are still facing challenging times but I know that residents will continue to do whatever it takes to make sure we come through this. Please follow the instructions from government, be sensible, be safe and be kind.”