Gerry Farrell: Here's a tip: clamp down on chancers

I nearly choked when I read the headline in yesterday's Evening News: '˜Watchdog gives Capital streets clean bill Of health'

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 8th March 2017, 9:00 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:01 am
Marine Esplanade is a magnet for fly-tippers
Marine Esplanade is a magnet for fly-tippers

The bureaucrat who wrote the report must live in a nice, tidy place like Morningside. He or she has obviously never taken a stroll along Marine Esplanade.

Marine Esplanade is the romantic name given to the road that runs alongside the Firth of Forth at the back of Seafield in Leith.

In reality, Marine Esplanade isn’t the least bit romantic. They should re-name it Marine Mess-planade because it may well be the ugliest road in Edinburgh, thanks to the scourge of this city, fly-tipping.

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One of Malena Persson's photos from the Ocean Terminal exhibition

I don’t mean the odd chair or mattress. This is criminal. I’m talking fly-tipping on an industrial scale. This is where Edinburgh’s wide-boy builders come in their white Transits and dirty wee vans to dump anything they want.

There are broken toilets, giant fridges, cookers, dozens of plastic fruit and vegetable trays labeled ‘Balmoral Hotel’ and sheets of sodden chipboard. On the other side of the sea-wall, half a car has been rolled into the surf.

As far as the eye can see, there are piles of festering garbage, a haven for rats and other vermin.

We were first tipped off about Edinburgh’s latest disgrace by local photographer Malena Persson who began documenting this eyesore a year ago. Her photos, shown here, reveal just a fraction of the degradation that has been allowed to take root here.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La land

“I like to cycle along the Esplanade but when I noticed the mess I began to take my camera and document the problem.

“What astonishes me is that the guys who are doing this have absolutely no fear of being caught.

“I see them driving up in broad daylight, sometimes two or three vans at a time and just emptying the contents onto the ground. Because I come here on my own I feel too vulnerable to photograph the guys who are doing it.”

Zsuzsa and I go along to see for ourselves. We’ve only been there two minutes when a white Transit drives towards us. The driver clocks me staring at him and accelerates away.

One of Malena Persson's photos from the Ocean Terminal exhibition

We decide to drive a little further on to see what new horrors lie in wait. Transit Man passes us in the opposite direction. As soon as we get turned we follow him. When we catch up, he’s already parked at the side of the road.

His sliding doors are open and he’s quite blatantly heaving waste timber and old shelving units out on to the road to add to the mountain of trash already there. When we stop behind him he gets back into his cab and feigns innocence.

But we’ve both witnessed him and we’ve got his registration number so he’s not going to get away with it if it’s up to us.

We’re both raging. Not so much about this one sad individual who’s too lazy and pathetic to take his waste to the dump. No, we’re blazing mad at the apathy of our local authorities who’ve allowed this situation to persist and deteriorate for so long without stepping in to put a stop to it.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La land

If Google Streetview is anything to go by, fly-tipped waste has been piling up in this spot for years.

The city authorities are quite simply turning a blind eye and allowing what could be a scenic seafront cycling route to be turned into something approaching a war-zone.

Does Edinburgh actually employ any environmental wardens? Legend has it they exist but I’ve never seen one in the flesh. What about the police?

Fly-tipping is a criminal offence with fines from £200 to £40,000 and jail sentences up to five years. This would be the easiest place to catch offenders red-handed and prosecute them. It’s happening all the time as we just discovered for ourselves. How much would it cost to place a few hidden cameras around these sites and use the footage to secure convictions?

You can measure a council’s determination to create a great city not by the fine words spoken at civic gatherings like Edinburgh City Vision 2050 but by its deeds.

Making Edinburgh a zero-tolerance zone for litter and fly-tipping would be a wonderful first step towards a city that could compete with Paris, Budapest and Barcelona.

I’m in favour of the 20mph speed limit on our motorists – it’ll save lives. But that’s an easy win for the council and motorists are a soft target. It’s a piece of cake to stick up a load of road signs and penalise a few errant drivers.

But ask our council to tackle a basic problem, like dirty streets, and you can almost feel their willpower seeping away.

It’s no use us Edinburgh folk wanting a clean city. The council needs to want it too or we’re all stuffed.#

‘Censored’ photos just go too far

Ocean Terminal is to be commended for showcasing the work of local photographers in the shopping centre but it has just blotted its own copybook by censoring some of the photographs at one of its own exhibitions.

Leith photographer Malena Persson was given permission to put up a series called “No Human Is Illegal”, documenting recent anti-Trump demonstrations in the Capital.

The photographs express no political opinion, they simply show scenes from the demos.

For reasons the management won’t disclose, two of the photographs were removed without Ms Persson’s permission and several others were damaged in the attempt to take them down.

There’s only one word for that. It’s censorship.

None of the management team at Ocean Terminal would return my calls but centre manager Dennis Jones did issue the following statement: “Ocean Terminal and its management are politically neutral in how they present the centre to consumers. We encourage art and culture in a manner which is open and consistent with this.” ‘Censored’ photos just go too far

Gush ado about not a La La lot

So many friends gushed to me about La La Land, this year’s Not-The-Best-Picture-After-All, that I finally dragged myself out to see it. My conclusion? Er, it’s a Hollywood musical.

There have been better ones, there have been worse. If you like movie musicals, you’ll like this one. If you don’t, you won’t.

The best thing you could say about La La Land is that it has hidden shallows.