David Cretney column: Challenge to local authorities on litter

Saturday 13th March 2021 12:00 pm
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David Cretney - ()

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I accept this week’s piece may seem a little mundane given the issues currently facing our Island with the current pandemic, but I had prepared this in advance of the deteriorating situation.

My thoughts are with all those presently worried or struggling. I

trust time and care will help heal the current pain. I hope the matters I will once again raise here are of interest and let’s pledge ourselves to improve things regarding the issues I have raised once we come through this sad time.

I recently had cause to use the Douglas Corporation ’report it’ feature on their website.

I reported a dog bin adjacent to Scooil Vallajeelt which was overflowing.

People had done the right thing but the bin required attention. When I did this I received a prompt email response and the issue was responded to the same day.

I live next to a green area and we used to have a dog bin for those who exercise their dogs on the grassed area which is also used by youngsters.

Sadly, some time ago the bin was removed.

Further down the road from where I live there is a bus shelter adjacent to Vicarage Park.

Now whilst I welcome more provision of bus shelters to encourage bus use a litter bin has been placed there.

Unfortunately it’s across a busy road so if you are walking your dog you have to take on a potentially risky manoeuvre to use it. Perhaps those who have these responsibilities should consider such placements?

Don’t get me going on those people who don’t do the responsible thing near to schools, along footpaths or other places or those who think it’s acceptable to decorate bushes and trees in plastic bag fashion. It isn’t!

I wonder if these are the same people who have recently taken to discarding masks or gloves when the vast majority of people have been doing the right thing as a community?

It is a really unacceptable practice and it’s not hard to dispose of such used products in an appropriate manner.

As a dog owner I have on occasion taken the action other dog users or those who have carelessly disposed of masks or gloves should have taken as I carry spare bags when exercising Roxy.

This got me thinking about the other irritating and anti-social activities we still have to endure, such as general littering or fly tipping.

These matters have long been a concern, indeed there is the provision in law for very substantial fines. Can anyone remember when a significant fine that might make others think was last imposed? I can’t!

This is not the first time by any means that this topic will have been discussed via the medium of Isle of Man Newspapers.

Indeed in April 2018 an enquiry was made with six local authorities around the island in relation to the five years prior.

Douglas Corporation had received 228 reports of incidents and issued 31 fixed penalty notices; Ramsey Commissioners had issued 19 on-the-spot fines and taken three to prosecution for failure to pay; Peel Commissioners only had figures for three years during which they had issued five on-the-spot fines; Port Erin, Castletown and Onchan had not issued any on the spot fines, but Castletown and Onchan stated that various matters had been resolved by verbal warnings or words of advice.

I have contacted each of the above for an update which I will report on here in two weeks’ time.

I have also included Braddan Commisioners this time, because I have previously had issues reported to me of fly tipping over the Marine Drive about which I always contacted a former clerk.

It will be interesting to receive such feedback and share it with you. Indeed I would welcome any feedback from any other local authorities around the island for their views or ideas and of course from you as well - pm on Facebook or [email protected] please!

The matter was raised in Tynwald in June 2019 and HM Attorney General said at that stage their had been two prosecutions in the previous five years - one in 2017 resulted in a £50 fine and one in 2018 the penalty was £100.

The law allows for much stronger fines if deemed appropriate.

Port Erin Commissioners discussed food packaging and other litter on the beach in August last year.

There were obviously no visitors to blame for this but some commentators suggested there were insufficient or not large enough bins provided.

I have heard similar suggestions in the past in relation to the minority who abuse Douglas Head when having lunch in their cars or when packaging from one of the larger food establishments is seen discarded around the island.

Douglas Town Council responded by placing bins that are supposed to be seagull proof but some people just drop the packaging by the side of their cars.

The large food establishment I refer to is the only one I have seen that specifically paid an employee as his full-time job to clean up adjacent areas so they are not responsible for food packaging appearing around the countryside, the simple solution is to take it home with you.

I have also seen comments made about the cost of depositing certain items at the civic amenity sites but the authorities have to undertake work to safely dispose of such items with them.

There could be legitimate concerns for those on fixed incomes in situations such as this and perhaps the various local authorities who comprise the operation of the sites should consider this in order to discourage potential fly tipping.

There have been some fantastic developments in the last few years as this issue has found its way up the political agenda.

My good friend Bill Dale, who over 30 years ago gave me the opportunity to write a column in his newspaper the Isle of Man Gazette, is being globally recognised for the establishment of Beach Buddies in October 2006 with two people walking with their dogs at Kirk Michael collecting hundreds of bags of rubbish.

A decision was made - ’it’s not enough to just stand and stare’.

They went on in a small way with a Facebook page until 2012 where the first team event took place where 34 people turned up and the following week 40 people to at the end of that year over 1,500 volunteers were involved. By 2015 that had surpassed 6,000 volunteers and now over 8,000 or just about 10% of our population.

The good work is now truly globally recognised and has brought much positive publicity to the island as well as improving our environment for us and those who come to spend time with us.

Other organisations have been established and local authorities, volunteer and youth groups and other organisations now regularly set about improving local areas.

Other groups such as Three Pieces of Plastic encourage people to pick up three pieces every day on beaches, in the countryside or simply on the street.

They are making a real difference but we must all play our part.

When I was a boy if I were to dare to drop a sweet wrapper in town my mother would ensure I picked it up and it’s really good that young people today are getting involved with such groups.

In our family it has become something of an adventure for Ivy and Stan to go out on an adventure with Nanna or Mum, equipped with litter pickers and a bag.

They go to a little glen near our house with a little stream running through it, near to school and often they will pick up plastic items and other discarded materials and proudly take their collections for proper disposal.

I also have a front seat ’spotter’ whenever we go out in the car who points out items strewn in the hedgerows in places and when we reach a beach she is immediately on duty to collect items that should not be in such beauty spots. Well done Mrs C!

The solution must be to eradicate the feeling some people have that it’s simply OK to dispose of their waste in an anti-social manner, much as other anti-social activities have been eliminated in the past.

Organisations such as Isle of Man Friends of the Earth and local authority involvement like Garff Commissioners and others cooperating with Beach Buddies to look after the five beaches in their area are showing real commitment to the future of our island and our real-life demonstration towards the Unesco Biosphere status.

New organisations are being established such as Plastic Busters which complements other long-established organisations such as ’Zero Waste Mann’.

All these moves are to be welcomed and it needs an ’all-island’ approach of which the commitment of government and local authorities is key.

I will report back in two weeks on the local authority responses and any views you share with me via the email address.

We are really ’all in this together’ as caretakers for the time being of our special island.

For more information search www.biosphere.im or contact the various charitable and other groups of volunteers.

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