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Household recycling centre service review consultation

This consultation is now closed

The eight week consultation period closed on 23 October. We cannot accept any more official responses to the consultation, but we always welcome feedback on the service and its future. A report on the consultation will be completed and given to Council Cabinet Members, along with other key documents, before they make a decision.

Further information will be posted on this page once it becomes available.

Contents of this page

1. Background

4. The options in detail

9. Additional documents

 

1. Background

Buckinghamshire's household recycling centres are popular, well used and highly thought of with more than 70% of all waste received being recycled and a 99% approval rate from visitors. But the harsh reality is we can't afford to continue as we are due to the financial pressures on all Council services.

In line with decreases in public spending nationally, the amount Buckinghamshire County Council has to spend on all of its services is much reduced. This means that all of the Council's services and spending have to be reviewed. We also need to prepare our household recycling centre service for future growth in the county. This consultation will put Buckinghamshire in a position to reduce costs from April 2019 but also be ready to provide new, modern sites in the future in areas of the county where there is population growth.

Waste and recycling is one of the services that are undergoing a review, part of which is the county's household recycling centre service, which costs £3million a year to maintain. We have already made all the smaller changes we can to make Buckinghamshire's household recycling centres more efficient, but the budget pressures mean that we now have to consider ways in which we can reduce the amount we spend on the service.

We are proposing to:

  • Reduce the number of opening days at our Aylesbury (Rabans Lane), Burnham and Chesham sites, from 7 days a week down to 5
  • Introduce charges at all sites for some types of waste
  • Close down completely one site, perhaps two sites
  • Consider charging residents from outside Bucks for disposing of all waste types at our site, or preventing them using our sites altogether.

We are consulting on:

  • Whether to close one site or two
  • Our preferred option for one site to close would be Bledlow
  • Our preferred option for two sites to close would be Bledlow and Burnham
  • Which two weekdays it would be better to close Aylesbury (Rabans Lane), Burnham and Chesham sites
  • Whether to charge residents from outside Buckinghamshire for using our sites, stop them using the sites altogether or continue to allow the same access as Bucks residents.

The consultation runs from 28 August to midnight 22 October.We want to hear your views on the proposals which are detailed on this web page and accompanying information. Your feedback will be presented to the Council's Cabinet in December 2018. The Cabinet will make the final decision on how to go forward with the proposals included in this document, taking into account the results of the consultation. A report will then be published which will detail the decisions made and the reasons for doing so.

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2. Why we need to change

We need to review the household recycling centre service because we will have approximately £1.2 million less to spend annually from April 2019.

Buckinghamshire County Council provides a wide range of services for local residents, and in addition to income from council tax, we previously received funding from central government. However, this central government funding has fallen from £60.8 million in 2013/14 to zero in 2018/19. This massive reduction is forcing us to find ways to reduce costs. All services need to do their bit. The household recycling centre service has already made some changes to reduce costs whilst remaining efficient and maintaining high customer satisfaction.

Despite reducing budgets, Buckinghamshire is a growing county, with more homes being built and communities expanding. We need to be ready to meet the future demand, which does not fit with the locations and facilities provided at some of our current household recycling centres. By making the proposed changes we will not only meet the reduced budget for next year but will be ready to plan for the future population changes, instead of trying to make do with the existing sites as they are.

3. What our review has found so far

Our review has examined a lot of information that has helped us develop plans for a future service. This includes data on how and when our household recycling sites are used, results from our annual customer feedback survey, what other councils across the country are doing and what residents said during discussion groups we held about our centres. We found that:

We run an efficient service

Recent comparison with other authorities showed that we run an efficient service in terms of cost. “The spend on waste disposal per head of population at Buckinghamshire County Council in 2016/17 was the lowest of all English County authorities” (data gathered by LG Inform).  This shows that there is no further room to make small changes. A fundamental change is needed to meet the savings.

We have more sites than UK average

Buckinghamshire has 1.9 sites per 100,000 residents which is more than the UK average (1.3 sites per 100,000 residents). We would still be above the national average if there were one or two fewer sites in Buckinghamshire.

Chart of sites per 100,000 residents

How often people visit our sites

Around 1.8million visits are made each year to Buckinghamshire's household recycling centres. Most people use our sites monthly.

Residents also prefer to visit at weekends, with more than a third of visits being made on Saturdays and Sundays. There is also a big difference between our busiest sites and our least busy. Our two busiest sites (Aston Clinton and High Wycombe) have more visitors than our four quietest sites (Amersham, Bledlow Ridge, Buckingham and Burnham).

Some waste types are expensive to dispose of

We spend more than £800,000 each year disposing of waste that we could be charging for. We have a duty to collect 'household waste' which is defined by the Environmental Protection Act 1990. However, other waste types, like soil, rubble, plasterboard and car tyres are legally defined as 'non-household waste'. We currently accept this waste free of charge, even though we could legally charge. Over recent years councils in England have started to charge for non-household waste. We realise that to meet the savings needed, we must also implement charging to allow us to recoup the significant cost of disposing of non-household waste materials.

Fly-tipping is not linked to household recycling centres

The prevention of fly tipping is a very high priority for the local authorities in Buckinghamshire, and the county has a rate of successful prosecution of offenders some 16 times the national average. Whilst we acknowledge that many residents may assume that fewer household recycling centres will mean more fly tipping, we are confident this need not be the case.

The majority of fly tips are by commercial operators, not by householders. There is always a cost to disposing of commercial waste, which some operators try to avoid, to the detriment of our local area.

Other councils have reduced opening days, closed sites and introduced charges for some waste types, and not experienced increases in fly-tipping above national trends.

  • Surrey County Council, for example, made similar changes to those proposed and did not see an increase, and in a cabinet report in 2017 showed a decrease.
  • The Association for Public Sector Excellence when looking at other authorities to have made similar changes, have said that "there was no evidence that site changes caused an increase in attributable incidents".

In our own experience, changes to this service do not directly affect fly tipping.

  • Winter opening hours were reduced at our ten sites in 2016, and there was no increase in fly-tipping relating to the change.
  • When we opened Aston Clinton in 2009, the brand new, purpose-built site did not result in a reduction in fly tipping in the local area.

We work hard to clear and prosecute fly tips and most importantly prevent them in the first place. With clearly communicated changes and a strong well recognised anti-fly tipping campaign, we do not expect fly tipping to increase.

Some key fact about fly-tipping in Buckinghamshire:

  • £610,000 was the estimated cost of clearing fly tips in 2017/18.
  • There were 2,900 incidents of fly tipping in 2017/18 compared to 1.8 million visits to household recycling centres.
  • Buckinghamshire's Illegal Dumping Costs campaign is estimated to have saved £3 million by reducing fly-tipping in the county. This campaign has been refreshed and will continue to combat fly tipping.
  • Offenders are 16 times more likely to be prosecuted in Buckinghamshire for fly tipping than in the rest of England.

Find out more about Buckinghamshire’s work to reduce fly-tipping here.

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4. The options in detail

The information in the review has helped develop the following proposed changes.

5. Close either one or two household recycling centres

We cannot continue to run ten household recycling centres from April 2019 onwards. We need to save approximately £1.2million and cannot achieve this without at least one site closing permanently. We have more sites per 100,000 residents than the UK average, and all of our neighbouring councils. Our research tells us that we can still run an efficient service with one or two fewer sites. There are big plans for housing growth in the county, but not all our sites are best placed to deal with the growth.

We have assessed 50 different options for the service, and the preferred options suggest closing Bledlow and also possibly Burnham. The modelling used a number of factors such as  accessibility, site running costs, impacts on nearby sites, changes in traffic or haulage and options for future development.

The extensive research suggests these two sites are the best solution for the service as a whole, but we still need to listen to residents views before making a decision.

Chart of site usage

Overview of sites

Amersham - London  Road

Visits per year: 161,000

An historic site next door to Chiltern District Council Depot. Amersham is 4 miles from Chesham HRC, but despite the close proximity, visits are still high, serving both towns and surrounding areas.

The site is accessed off the main London Road and whilst vehicles do cross on site, the layout allows vehicles to enter and exit separately. It also runs a commercial weighbridge to allow traders to tip waste, for a charge.

Amersham is an important site to handle waste and visitor volumes. If it were closed, the impact on Chesham and Beaconsfield would be difficult to manage.

 

Aston Clinton - A41, College Road North

Visits per year: 260,000

Purpose built in 2009, a modern site with a one-way traffic design and commercial weighbridge to accept waste fro traders for a charge. The site has a charity run re-use shop, one way system and large area for residents to park and tip their waste.

It can handle large amounts of traffic without leading to queues; the site is located off the A41 with good links for onward transport. It is also used by the district council to bulk up some wastes, making collections more efficient.

Aston Clinton is a well-designed, modern site, ideally located to serve the large population in Aylesbury and surrounding areas to the south

 

Aylesbury - Rabans Close

Visits per year: 214,000

This site is another historic site which has large visitor numbers, especially given its size. It is in Aylesbury itself, north-west of the town centre and serves Aylesbury and surrounding towns/villages.

It is not large enough to support a one-way system, but traffic does not cross when entering or exiting the site, but does when parking to tip waste.

Aylesbury is a growing town and the nature of this sites current visitor numbers highlights its need to stay open. The site also runs a commercial weighbridge to allow traders to tip waste, for a charge.

 

Beaconsfield - Lower Pyebush, A40

Visits per year: 240,000

Built in 2007, a modern site with a dedicated access and full one-way system for visitors. Along with Aston Clinton and High Wycombe, this site shows how effective modern household recycling centres can be. The site can handle large volumes of waste and visitors without leading to delays. It receives some wastes from district collections which are bulked for efficient transport and has a commercial weighbridge to allow traders to tip waste, for a charge.

This modern site is efficient, helps make transporting waste more efficient and handles large volumes of waste and visits. The surrounding sites could not absorb the capacity if Beaconsfield was to close.

 

Bledlow Ridge – Wigans Lane

Visits per year: 97,000

Bledlow Ridge is near the border with Oxfordshire and its nearest town is Princes Risborough. It has the fewest visitors of all the sites, 32% of which come from Oxfordshire. Bledlow is one of the most remote sites in the service, and most expensive to run.

Although the site is remote, it does not serve a large population. Travel time to High Heavens would be between 6-10 minutes longer and Aston Clinton up to 14-20 minutes longer. However, for residents in Princes Risborough, the largest town nearby, it would only be 10-14 minutes more to Aston Clinton.

 

Buckingham - Yonder Slade

Visits per year: 107,000

Buckingham is the most remote site in the network, serving the North of the county. It is in a light industrial estate on the outskirts of the town. It is one of the most expensive to run, and is a small site with a narrow entrance. Despite its size, it is in a good location for the housing growth planned in the North.

Removing this site would give residents in North Bucks around 35min extra journey time, above the recommended maximum of 30min in a rural area.

 

Burnham - Crowpiece Lane

Visits per year: 116,000

Burnham is near the border of Buckinghamshire with Slough. It has similar visitor numbers to Buckingham and Bledlow. Access is off a narrow country lane and neighbours a traveller’s site and farmland. The layout of the site means that residents need to tip waste on the lower level, which also forms the exit route for all vehicles, site operations sometime leads to halting the public whilst compaction takes place. It is close to both Langley and Beaconsfield sites.

Chesham - Latimer Road

Visits per year: 162,000

Chesham shares an entrance with a scrap metal firm, east of the town centre. It has a full one way traffic system for residents. Operational traffic is kept separate and as a split level site, residents can tip waste on upper and lower levels. In a similar way to Amersham, the amount of waste and visits could not be easily absorbed by the nearest site, Amersham.

 

High Wycombe - High Heavens, Clay Lane, Booker

Visits per year: 276,000

Built in 2009. The modern site is located on the High Heavens waste management complex and shares a recently widened access road with heavy goods vehicles using the other complex facilities.  The site benefits from split level design keeping operational and public areas separate. The site has a re-use shop with parking spaces allowing residents to buy items from South Bucks Hospice. It also runs a commercial weighbridge to allow traders to tip waste, for a charge.

It has the most visits of any site, and is relatively in-expensive to run.

 

Langley - Langley Park Road

Visits per year: 188,000

Similar to Burnham, Langley sees a lot of visitors from Slough, which Slough BC pay an agreed amount to offset the cost of disposal of waste from their residents. The site is a split level site, with extended upper level, making it easier for residents to tip waste. It is easily accessible to the main road and the M4 for onward waste transportation. It has around 70,000 more visitors than Burnham. BCC own land surrounding Langley, so the site could be developed if needed in-line with housing growth.

 

Travel times to alternative sites

We have modelled travel times to and from Bledlow and Burnham, to identify the likely impact should one or both close. The times can be seen below. It is impossible to predict every residents travel time, so we have used the current site as the starting point, unless otherwise stated. Times given are an average of Google estimated times, taken each day of the week at 10am and 2pm.

Bledlow

Minutes

 

Current average travel time

10

Taken from 2017 Annual customer survey

Travel to High Heavens

16-20

A net difference of 6-10 extra minutes

Princes Risborough to Bledlow

12

Current typical times

Princes Risborough to Aston Clinton

22-26

A net difference of 10-14 extra minutes

Burnham

Minutes

 

Current average travel time

6.5

Taken from 2017 Annual customer survey

Travel to Beaconsfield

10-14

A net difference of 3-8 extra minutes

Travel to Langley

16-22

A net difference of 10-16 extra minutes

Overview of options

 

Option A

Reduce to 9 sites

Option B

Reduce to 8 sites

Proposed site(s) to close

Bledlow

Bledlow and Burnham

Positive impacts

Alternative sites are modern and have re-use shops.

Less HGV traffic in nearby villages.

Less HGV traffic in nearby villages.

Extra saving meets current target.

Negative Impacts

Further to travel for some residents.

Limited savings may require further changes in future.

Further to travel for some residents.

 

Cost savings

Approx. £160,000

Approx. £350,000

Map of site locations

Map of site locations

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6. Introduce charges for disposal of some types of waste

Why introduce charges?

By law we must accept day-to-day household waste free of charge. Other waste, such as landscaping or construction is classed as 'non-household waste' and we can charge for it. Other councils across the country already charge.

As a result, we are planning to charge for the disposal of some non-household waste. This will include soil, rubble, plasterboard and tyres. The charge will cover the cost of disposing of these items. Charging will ensure that we can continue to offer a disposal service for these materials, which people would otherwise find difficult to get rid of. Less than a third of current waste disposed of at our sites will be charged for in the future.

What waste is charged for?

Waste we cannot legally charge for

Waste types we can legally charge for

Garden waste

Paper and cardboard

Glass bottles and jars

Scrap metal

Household batteries and electrical goods

Bric-a-brac
General household rubbish

Rubble and hardcore

Soil

Plasterboard

Car tyres

Why aren’t we consulting on charges?

We cannot make the savings needed without charging for non-household waste. It will reduce our costs by approximately £800,000 every year. The alternative is to permanently close even more sites, which we don’t believe is the right thing for residents.

During our review, we have taken on board resident views about charges, which have been taken from our annual customer survey and recent discussion groups. There were mixed views but residents were happier with charges when they understood why they’re needed and the scale of savings achievable. 

How will charging work?

We haven’t yet decided exactly how charges will be collected at household recycling centres. We have looked at what other Councils do, and will consider different systems, costs and impacts on visitors. Current waste charging systems in use include:

  • Meet and greet staff
  • Online permits and pre-payment
  • Fast payment methods e.g. contactless

We would continue to recommend residents plan their visit around quiet times at the recycling centres, if possible. Weekdays, between 9am to 11am and 3pm to 5pm, are less busy than weekends and the middle of the day.

Examples of other Councils and their charging methods are below:

Oxfordshire County Council

Surrey County Council

West Berkshire Council

Wokingham Borough Council

Leicestershire County Council

Staffordshire County Council

How much are the charges?

We haven’t yet decided on the amounts for non-household waste charges. The costs will be similar to other councils and examples can be found by clicking on the links above.

We will publish details of all charges well before any changes are made. We will also publish alternative choices for residents who wish to take their non-household waste somewhere else.

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7. Close three sites for two days during the week (Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday)

All ten household recycling centres currently open seven days a week, 9am-6pm (9am-4pm in the winter). This includes bank holidays. We are proposing that three sites close for two days per week on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays.

We’ve based this proposal on information from traffic counters that show Saturday and Sunday are the busiest days on all ten sites, with Monday and Friday next busiest. Customer survey feedback also shows 63% of respondents use sites at weekends. In contrast, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are the quietest days, with the least visits.

Chart of average visits per day

Which sites would close for two weekdays?

We propose weekday closures at Aylesbury, Chesham and Burnham (providing it remains open after consultation). This is because these sites are all within 8 miles of another site and the alternative sites can deal with any extra visits during weekdays.

Residents in our recent discussion groups supported the idea of weekday closures, especially if closures are on the quietest days. Remaining open on weekends was important to most residents in the discussion groups.

What about other sites?

All other sites would remain open seven days a week. If residents need to visit a site on a day when their nearest site is closed then the alternative sites which remain open are suitable to take extra visitors. Consistent past survey data shows residents use the sites infrequently, we do not believe there will be a noticeable impact on the alternative sites, as all sites are quietest on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Which two days will the sites close?

There is very little difference in visitor numbers between Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, so we want to ask local residents which day they would like the site to stay open. Other Councils close two days in a row, however local need and responses will tell us if this makes sense for Buckinghamshire. This gives the decision makers local information, which is important for changes that do not directly affect all residents.

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8. Residents from outside Buckinghamshire

14% of visits to household recycling centres in Buckinghamshire are from residents outside of the county. The whole service is paid for by Buckinghamshire taxpayers, so any extra visits or waste from outside the county is an additional cost to us. Whilst 7 out of 10 users do not experience queues, extra visitors from outside the county can make sites busier, especially at popular times.

Chart of visitors at Bucks sites

We use our annual customer satisfaction survey to show where users come from. Our sites that are near the border of the county, Aston Clinton, Bledlow, Burnham and Langley all have visitors from other counties.

What do we do at the moment?

At the moment we allow residents from anywhere to use our sites free of charge. There are some provisions in place to address the additional costs this creates for us.

Burnham and Langley are very near the Slough border and we have an agreement with Slough Borough Council so they cover the cost of visits from their residents.

Aston Clinton is near the Hertfordshire border and before it was built in 2009, Hertfordshire County Council allowed Buckinghamshire residents to use their sites. Once Aston Clinton was built, we allowed the reverse arrangement in recognition of their previous help.

Bledlow borders Oxfordshire and 32% of visits are from Oxfordshire residents but there is no agreement currently between us and Oxfordshire County Council.

What could we do about residents from outside Buckinghamshire using our sites?

We have some options that we would like your views on, these are:

Stopping residents from outside Buckinghamshire using the sites

Other councils who stop residents from outside their county do so in different ways and we would look to use the most effective method, whilst minimising disruption to Buckinghamshire  users. Possible methods are:

Issuing permits to all Buckinghamshire users, which allows site staff to notice users from outside Buckinghamshire easily.

Site staff could ask all visitors for ID, like a drivers licence or utility bill, to see which users lived in Buckinghamshire

Online registration could be automated and use Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology to stop site staff having to check each visitor.

Charging residents for outside Buckinghamshire using the sites

Similar methods would be used as above, but instead of stopping visitors from outside Buckinghamshire, they would be told the cost of disposing of their waste and given the choice to pay or visit a site in their own county.

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9. Additional documents

Use the following links to download additional documents relating to the consultation.

Needs assessment

Equalities impact assessment

Health impact assessment

Flyer promoting the consultation

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Print entire guide

Last updated: 23 October 2018

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