Edinburgh council accused of 'inflexible' stance on location of new bin hubs

Call for review of criteria rejected by Edinburgh councillors
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Residents are “distraught and angry” over the council’s “inflexible” stance on the location of communal bin hubs, councillors have claimed.

The bin hubs – corrals of six varied kinds of bins at regular intervals along a street – are being rolled out across the Capital in an effort to boost recycling. But the placing of the hubs, often right outside people’s homes, has caused controversy, with complaints that the council is adopting rigid criteria over where they must go

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Inverleith Tory councillor Max Mitchell, calling for a review of the design framework which governs the locations, told Thursday’s full council meeting that residents also felt there had been a lack of proper consultation in advance. He said that people were not necessarily opposed to bin hubs, but they were often unhappy about the specific locations.

Bin hubs are being rolled out across the city in an effort to boot recyclingBin hubs are being rolled out across the city in an effort to boot recycling
Bin hubs are being rolled out across the city in an effort to boot recycling

The framework includes requirements that no resident should have to walk more than 50 metres or cross the road to reach a bin hub. Cllr Mitchell said he and Inverleith Lib Dem councillor Hal Osler had tried to persuade officials to find a more suitable location for a couple of bin hubs in one street, but had been refused. "This is not about stopping communal bin hubs, this is about trying to make it better for residents.”

Lib Dem councillor Sanne Dijkstra-Downie, who represents Forth ward, said that when she was elected a councillor last year she knew bin hubs were controversial. But she said: “I was not prepared for the level of anxiety, sadness, despair and anger that I have witnessed as the result of a council project that was supposed to make things better for residents.

"I’ve tried to mediate between officers asked to do a specific job by this council and utterly distraught and angry residents – distraught because they are suddenly faced with six black bins in front of their living room or a glass recycling bin under their bedroom window or because they are worried about the safety of a disabled child navigating a safe route to school around these daunting new barriers; angry because once again they do not feel listened to. Residents told me they couldn’t attend consultation events held during the working day. And when people did respond to the consultation, in the vast majority of cases their concerns were simply set aside because the framework dictated designs.”

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Leith Walk Lib Dem councillor Jack Caldwell cited the case of a blind resident with a narrow pavement outside their house worried about the –trip hazard presented by fly-tipping and overspill from the bins to be placed outside her house. Repeated approaches to the council from the resident, their family, their councillors and the RNIB had failed to achieve any change.

And Tory group leader Iain Whyte pleaded for more flexibility. He said: “The way we have implemented this as a council has been completely inflexible. Places where you suggest a bin hub be moved a few yards to be against a wall rather than directly outside someone’s front door the answer is ‘Computer says no’. Places where you ask for it to be moved across the road on a quiet road, ‘Computer says no’. These things are causing residents real fears about their safety should a bin go on fire and real fears about what it does other residential amenity.”

SNP Forth councillor Stuart Dobbin acknowledged the issue caused “a great deal of concern” but said officials had attended on-street meetings and some adjustments had been made and pointed out a report had already been requested on a mechanism to resolve outstanding local conflicts. He suggested on-street assessments could help decide the best location, “perhaps moving a hub a few metres to place it in front of a large hedge rather than a front door or window”.

And he noted the lids on new-style bins were “noisy” when they allowed to fall closed. He said: “Some bins have already had their lids removed by residents whose bedrooms are across the pavement.” And he voiced concern about accessibility. “Some of our more elderly citizens struggle to get their general waste into the new-style bins.”

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Green Inverleith councillor Jule Bandel defended the criteria for locating the bins. She said: “Waste and recycling services needed to be accessible to people of all abilities Some of the criteria set out in the framework – not having to walk further than 50 metres and not crossing the street – may seem unreasonable to some residents. But we need to remember that for some disabled people and people with mobility issues, a change like moving the bins across the road could actually mean they struggle to access their waste recycling service.”

Transport and environment convener Scott Arthur said the report on resolving conflicts was due in May. “There was an understanding that we did have to look at this in a little bit more detail to make sure we’re getting it right.” But he said staff were working hard on the issue and he had been impressed on a visit to Leith at how officers responded to concerns by making minor changes to the set-up on the streets. “Flexibility is being shown where possible, as far as I can see.”

The review call was rejected by 40 votes to 21.

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