SURREY County Council appears to have buckled under public pressure and made a last-minute decision to delay closing its community recycling centres (CRC).
Thousands of people signed petitions calling on the council to reconsider plans to close four community recycling centres in the county.
And just hours before they were due to decide on the future of the sites, a last-minute amendment was added to the council papers saying cabinet members had decided to delay the closure of the sites while they “sought alternative options to achieve savings”.
This means the CRCs at Cranleigh, Bagshot, Dorking and Warlingham will remain open for recycling material only until September 30 while other solutions are looked at. If no other option is found then the council will close the sites on October 1.
The public gallery was packed at County Hall in Kingston on Tuesday as cabinet members met to discuss the proposals put forward after the extensive consultations on five service areas.
Speaking about the U-turn over recycling centre closures, Conservative council leader Tim Oliver said delaying the changes will mean they can look at the Government’s waste strategy which was published just before Christmas and at their own waste plan.
But he warned: “Any changes must improve the sustainability and effectiveness of the service for residents. If we are to consider any closures in the future, it must be in this context.”
Petitions were presented by residents and community leaders before councillors debated and voted on each of the five service areas that went out to public condsultation.
There will be a second round of consultation over the future of libraries, a draft SEND (Special Education Needs and Disability) strategy drawn up and companions of those with a free disabled person’s bus pass will be able to retain their concessionary travel. But times of use will be limited to between 9.30am and 11pm.
Members voted to approve the budget set at £886.1million which includes a council tax rise of 2.99 per cent. This will be put forward to all members at the council’s full meeting on Tuesday, February 5.
* PEOPLE power helped save Farnham’s community recycling centre after it was proposed for closure, but not included in the final four sites – which have now been granted a stay of execution.
The Farnham Herald launched a ‘Don’t Dump the Dump’ campaign in November, backing the widespread calls of residents and councillors to save the town facility and presented its protest petition signed by hundreds of angry residents at Tuesday’s meeting.
Fears have been voiced that the closure of the county council’s Farnham and Cranleigh CRCs would have a damaging knock on effect due to the increase in traffic for the road safety of Rodborough School, Milford, which shares the same narrow access in Rake Lane as Witley recycling centre.
Witley Parish Council fired off a letter of objection to county councillor Mike Goodman, cabinet member for environment, protesting: “We fully understand that Surrey County Council has to make cost savings in the services it provides. However, the proposals suggested will have severe knock on effects.
“Whilst you make your required cost savings there will be additional costs incurred by town and parish councils and by Surrey residents.
“The permanent closure of the Cranleigh CRC will result in more traffic forced in the direction of the Witley CRC along highly unsuitable roads. Given the increase in housing developments in the Cranleigh area and the proposed works at Dunsfold Park, closing the Cranleigh site will prove to be short sighted.
“If you are expecting residents from that area to use Witley CRC has any evaluation been made of the potential increase in vehicles, including the number of container movements? We do not think that closing CRCs, restricting their opening hours or increasing the charges are appropriate ways to make savings.”