Online booking system proposals considered for waste and recycling centres

Margate recycling centre

By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan

An online booking system may be introduced to access the county’s recycling centres when they reopen.

The potential move comes as Kent councils are seeking to find ways to cope with a surge in demand to use the county’s 21 tips amid the coronavirus crisis.

Medway Council and Kent County Council are working together to formulate the proposal, which was revealed to the public during KCC’s second virtual cabinet meeting this morning (April 27).

KCC’s cabinet member for environment, Cllr Susan Carey (Con) said: “We are working with Medway Council on a booking system to manage demand.”

More details on the proposed system have yet to be released by the KCC administration.

KCC’s main opposition leader, Cllr Rob Bird (Lib Dem), who supported the proposal, said: “It would avoid an avalanche of people turning up at the same time.”

The plans come as pressure to reopen centres mounts amid fears around sharp increases to flytipping. Although KCC says there is a “mixed picture” over these incidents.

A total of 13 Kent MPs have jointly called on KCC leader Roger Gough (Con) to formally request they reopen next month. They sent a letter to his office earlier today.

In the North West, Wigan Council has reopened its recycling centre sites but other local authorities across the country have been more cautious in their approach.

Cllr Carey said: “Kent is far from alone in making this decision to keep household waste recycling centres closed.

“On the contrary it is the stance of the overwhelming majority of upper tier authorities across the country.”

Government guidance – published on April 7 – suggests keeping tip services running where “effective social distancing” can be maintained.

But, Cllr Carey said Whitehall’s guidance was “silent” on how this would be achieved in practice. She added that it fails to square with advice around “essential journeys” where tip visits are discouraged.

Across KCC’s 18 sites there was a surge in people using them last month, rising from 10,800 daily visits to around 14,400 by March 23.

Cllr Carey said: “Last week I said we would reopen household waste recycling centres when it is safe to do so.

“This will require sufficient staffing and a system to ensure that social-distancing is effective for both users of the site and staff.”

However, other KCC members, from across the political spectrum, have called for a commitment to reopen centres soon.

Margate Cllr Barry Lewis  and Cllr Karen Constantine (Lab) have both called for at least one Thanet site to open.

MP Craig Mackinlay is one of the MPs who have signed the letter to ask KCC to reopen the sites.