On April 29th, More than 20 staff from various local Marks and Spencers outlets helped Thames21 volunteers clear old and new fly-tipping and general litter from along the River Cray on By-way 105, and the sewer pipe embankment around Thames Road Wetland. They also extracted a shopping trolley and other junk from the River Wansunt. This was part of an ongoing series of environmental clean-up events that they participate in.
We have reported previously how schoolchildren from Greenwich made a start on the Thames Road Wetland fly-tipping, and the photos below show how it looked in January before any work was done, and after the work by the M&S team. The area still looks a bit of a mess because of the remaining mound of fragmented wall plaster, but this will eventually dissolve and get grown over. Non-bio-degradable material was removed. Bricks and pieces of unpainted timber were left, and some of these were moved elsewhere to increase the number of Lizard basking sites – indeed a Lizard came out whilst we were clearing up this mess. A conservative estimate is that the two onslaughts on this outrage engaged around 15 people over a total of 4 hours.
The fly-tipping had been reported to Bexley Council on January 30th, and was discussed on the phone with a member of Council staff. My position was that since the culprits had gained unforced entry through a locked gate situated on Council-owned land, and had driven in part across Council land to commit the offence, the Council should at least try and find out who could get in through the gate. They were not keen, as the material itself wasn’t on their land, even though I later reported that various plastics were blowing off the pile onto the Council-owned wetland itself.
Despite a request being sent on April 3rd for a progress report, or at least statement in writing for future reference that the Council was not prepared to act, no reply has as yet been forthcoming.
I also suggested that the page urging members of the public to report fly-tipping on the council’s website should be amended to make it crystal clear that the Council will not do anything unless the material is deposited on Council land, if that is indeed the case, whether there is immediate evidence as to who did it or not. That hasn’t happened either.
The Council seems to think we should have spent our time and money finding out who surrounding landowners are, so we could sort this out with them for ourselves, on top of being willing to tackle the mound of garbage itself. This despite plenty of historic fly-tipping that said owners have done nothing at all to tackle themselves during the last 4 years at least.
Well, we piled all the material we removed onto the pavement and called it in as with everything else we collect. The reality is in any case that almost all the trash we remove from in and around the river is not on Council property anyway, and the Council couldn’t really decline to remove a mountain of junk from a public foot-way.
We are grateful to the Council staff on the ground who (fairly) good-humouredly collected this stuff and took it away for proper disposal, indeed it took two trips to shift it all.
One just wonders what happened to all that ‘Big Society’ talk. Volunteers can do a lot, but we should be able to expect a bit more basic assistance from the relevant public bodies, and not have to fight for it! If the Council is out of pocket it should, perhaps, identify the landowners and send them a bill.
To end on a positive note, a very big thanks to the M&S crew who did a magnificent job.
It should be noted that the opinions expressed here are my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of Thames21.
Chris Rose, Thames Road Wetland Site Manager.