January 2020: She nabbed me in the street. I knew she was going to, she had that determined look on her face. I also sensed the topic was going to be the very same thing that Poppy, who lives opposite, had tackled me about the night before.
Oh, to be so popular with the ladies! But I was on the home run of my councillorship and I thought it was time to tell some truths. So in one way. this is an apology to both these charming women.
Their complaint, that’s the only reason I’m nabbed by anyone at the moment, was about fly-tipping in and alongside a builder’s skip next to a pizza takeaway right on a main shopping road.
The builder is refurbishing some conservation grade buildings and needs somewhere to store the waste before it’s collected. And just opposite is a small patch of land with uncertain ownership rights, perfect for a skip.
The builder had originally organised a half container so it could be locked up and fenced off so it didn’t attract fly-tipping.
Despite his best intentions it did attract some and attracted quite a few residents’ complaints too, including from Carol and Poppy who decided the container was an eyesore. And to support my residents, we complained to planning enforcement.
Six months later the Enforcement Department decided it had been there long enough to be classed as a permanent structure without planning permission and so asked that it be removed. It was and what was the builder to do instead? He hired a skip which he knew would attract fly-tipping, and it did.
Residents complained and when it was full it was removed, emptied, a new one put in its place, more fly-tipping and so the cycle went on. Perhaps she thought I should ask them?
I explained the “least worst” option was a half container like he had had before, or of course he might actually finish the building work which seemed never ending. What’s the builder doing? A nuclear bunker?
The laws afforded to councils don’t allow the resolution of such a problem. The skip is permitted, it attracts fly-tipping, it gets complained about and then eventually cleared away. And a new cycle starts. Maybe that’s how it’s meant to be.
People are free to do what they want unless there are powers to stop them. If so, and I think that’s broadly right in a liberal democracy, then stop complaining to us councillors as we can’t and perhaps shouldn’t do anything?
This is an edited extract from After The Revolution by Clive Stevens, Green councillor for Clifton Down. After the Revolution is published by Tangent Books and sees Clive lifting the lid on issues that he has been involved in over the past four years.
Main photo: Empica