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A Cumbria County Council consultation on proposed changes to the way Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) are provided in the county has less than two weeks to go before it finishes on February 19th.
So far the proposals have generated a good deal of interest and comment, with over 1,700 responses received by the council. The county council's Cabinet will examine the consultation responses before making any decisions on changing the service.
Driven by the necessity for the council to make savings, but also shaped by the change in people's waste disposal and recycling behaviour, the proposals include closing six of the county's least used and least efficient HWRCs and replacing them with a mobile service.
The county council is also proposing to change the opening hours of the remaining HWRCs so they are open at the times when people use them most and properly reflect seasonal usage. This would reduce the number of days remaining sites are open from seven a week to five, but importantly HWRCs would stay open at weekends when they are used most. The third key proposal is to bring Cumbria into line with most other local authority areas and introduce a charge for waste classed as 'non-household waste', which local authorities are not legally obliged to accept at HWRCs and includes soil, rubble, asbestos, plasterboard and car tyres.
The changes, which would save £2m, would be the biggest overhaul in the provision of HWRCs Cumbria has ever gone through and ensure that all of Cumbria's remaining sites meet modern requirements. The county council is already committed to investing in a new state-of-the-art HWRC in Lillyhall which will replace the outdated sites at Workington and Frizington in 2013.
The proposals being consulted on follow a major review of the provision of HWRCs in Cumbria which found that the current network is inefficient in that a quarter of the current opening hours account for just 9% of the use. The review also found that Cumbria has one of the highest HWRC per head of population ratios of any rural local authority - nearly three times the ratio found in Cheshire or Lancashire. Cumbria currently spends nearly 40% more than other rural councils on waste services (£56.05 per person per year compared with an average of £40.46).
The six sites identified by the review as most suitable for closure (Ambleside, Brampton, Grange, Kirkby Stephen, Millom and Wigton) only account for 15% of the total tonnage of waste handled at all of Cumbria's HWRCs and also have the smallest number of visitors.
Cllr Tim Knowles, Cabinet member responsible for environment, said:
"We're all ears at the moment and I would like to stress that no decisions have been made to close or change anything - we're just at the stage of capturing the public's views on our proposals. The consultation has already produced some interesting ideas, such as looking into the viability of community-run centres or getting trade operators to run some sites on our behalf.
"As long as we deliver the necessary savings, and our HWRCs can operate safely and effectively, then I'm more than happy to consider any alternatives to outright closure. But waste is an area where we are relatively inefficient at the moment, so it is an area where we have to make savings."
More details on the proposals and how to get involved in the consultation can be found on the council's website www.cumbria.gov.uk, and the quickest and simplest way to respond to the consultation is by completing the consultation form online. Information is also being made available at all 14 HWRCs in Cumbria as well as libraries and council offices