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Tip to Close

Tip to CloseWell, after what's probably best described as a 'Consultation Exercise' - with the emphasis on the exercise part - where there is a lot of listening but not a lot of hearing, it looks as though the County Council is going to close St Annes Tip (or Recycling Centre if you prefer).

We set out the pros and cons in some detail in 'Longer Tip Trip?'  so we won't go into them again here.

Suffice to say that people probably should have realised (but perhaps didn't) when they voted to return a Conservative County Hall Administration promising a zero rate Council Tax increase, that this would mean some services would be cut.

Just as next year, we're going to see quite serious cuts in the services made by Local and County Councils when Government - elected with the stronger of the deficit reduction schemes - makes its own cuts in grant to local councils.

Once it had been identified as a possibility, it always looked to us as though St Annes was going to close.

In our view the 345,000 they reputedly spent on the 'survey' to decide which tips to close was quite a scandalous post-decision justification consultancy payment for what had already been agreed in private.

We were pleased to see the effort being put in by FBC's Councillors. - Initially the Liberal Democrats to persuade the decision not to go ahead, and later notably Conservative Cllrs David Eaves, Albert Pounder (both pictured above) and Roger Small, to try and change the decision.

And when that appeared unlikely, to try and work something out with Blackpool, who are a waste disposal authority in their own right, and who in our view are also, probably unwittingly, the cause of the tip closing

(Folk in Blackpool don't pay any council tax to Lancashire, but about 30& to 40% of the waste arriving at St Annes comes from Blackpool).

We don't know if the talks with Blackpool will bear fruit, but the effort is being put in on our behalf.

Having said all that, in what appears to most people to be a glorious example of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing - as well as closing the tip, the Lancashire County Council is currently consulting residents in Fylde on whether the area around the tip is suitable for use for waste collation in the future.

Yes. Really.

If you get inside the minds of the people who are doing the consultation it all makes perfect sense.

They even had an exhibition about it at St Annes Library to answer questions on it.

We went along for the benefit of our readers who couldn't get. We found a small set of display boards and underwhelmed young man and lady willing to 'engage with the public' as they say these days.

We asked them at one point if they could see how local people might be confused and maybe even angry that the tip they wanted to keep was being closed and a new one they didn't want might appear in the same area.

Give them their due, the young man, when pushed a bit, did agree he could see how that might happen. But he added that the closure was "a budget thing - about costs and so on, whereas this is about strategic planning"

Ahhh. So that's alright then.

So, to cut to the quick - what's the consultation all about?

Well, Lancashire County Council is the waste disposal authority for our area (Fylde is the waste *collection* authority). And LCC like - above all - to take a strategic view of things (it keeps pesky complaining people out of their hair if they can show that they made the strategic decision some months ago, and its too late to change it when the public have already been consulted). You know the sort of thing.

And this latest proposal isn't about domestic waste or recycling at all. It's about commercial or industrial waste.

Specifically the LCC 'Minerals and Waste Consultation' that's currently under way is about finding strategic locations for commercial and industrial waste to be operated by the private sector.

So it might be a commercial waste transfer operation, or skips, or something like a small anaerobic digester.

And furthermore, these schemes are all dependent on whether some private sector company wants to provide one. No Council money will be involved. At least that's what he knows at present. We're less certain, but he may be right.

The County Council sees its role here as being to pre-identify strategic locations where such facilities might be located if anyone is looking to do so.

They're a bit like bus stops these things, (only worse).

Everybody thinks they're very necessary, and a great idea, but not near where they live. So when you want to put one somewhere, folk living in the area get very upset at the traffic, the smells and nuisance and so on.

The County Council had drawn up their list of possible sites and were happy with it, but then during their first consultation, "someone" asked for an additional site - specifically "the Queensway site" - at St Annes to be added into the consultation as a possible location.

We think there may have been one or two more added in elsewhere in the County as well, so they have revised the plan and were now re-consulting on the new list.

In our case, they had drawn a red line around all the area of "industry" at the end of Kilnhouse lane, and the area of green land between the 'industrial area' and the Queensway road, (where Kensington have an outline planning permission for industrial use) and if "the Queensway site" is approved after this consultation, and someone comes to them as says I'd like to build a small scale waste processing or handling plant somewhere in Fylde, they'd point to the red line area and say: well somewhere in there will be OK, subject to the usual planning constraints.

The red line area included Jewsons, and even new Fylde Housing's Offices as well as other commercial premises (because they're all classed as industrial or commercial land).

We asked about the impact of the development on, say, wildlife in the green land - but were told that was a matter to be considered at the planning application stage, if an application were to come forward. It wasn't an appropriate consideration at a strategic level like this.

So we asked what did they think would be a strategic consideration at this stage, and they said: well things such as proximity to housing and businesses, access for lorries, that sort of thing.

Quite frankly, we were at a loss to separate nuisance and access from the sort of arguments we hear at every planning meeting we go to, but there you are, that's what they said.

Being the suspicious and cynical lot that we are, we figured if we could work out who it was that had asked for the site to be included on a revised list, we might get a clue as to who had such an idea up their sleeve, and therefore what was likely to appear at (or shortly after) the end of the consultation period.

So we asked. He couldn't remember, but promised to send the information on to us.

Good as his word he did.

He said "The inclusion of the Queensway industrial estate was suggested by officers from Fylde Borough Council."

So there we are.

Bit like the Magic Roundabout really, said Dougal; dangerously. Cue the music.

Dated:  13 June 2010


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