Rochdale worst Greater Manchester borough for fly-tipping, data shows

Rochdale is the worst borough in Greater Manchester for fly-tipping with 24.6 offences per 1,000 people, according to official figures.

The government data accounts for all dumping of rubbish and unwanted items reported by local authorities in 2022/23.

The City of Manchester followed Rochdale with the second-highest number of offences relative to its population, registering 24 per 1,000 people, with Oldham in third with 23.2.

And residents in both Rochdale and Manchester are taking matters into their own hands. Gillian Haste, 47, who lives in Whitworth on the border of Greater Manchester and Lancashire, is one of those.

She said: “My house backs onto Healey Dell nature reserve which has deer and badgers.

“It’s beautiful – apart from the rubbish.

“We found a canoe once and we often find bikes, children’s toys, carpets, furniture, even online shopping crates.”

At the other end of the scale, the cleanest boroughs were Wigan and Trafford, with 6.9 and 8.6 instances per 1,000 people respectively – meaning Wiganers are three times less likely to encounter rubbish dumped in the streets than those in Manchester or Rochdale.

Each borough council also details the amount of action taken in relation to fly-tipping.

These measures vary in prevalence between each borough, but they include investigations, Fixed Penalty Notices, warning letters, fines, stop and searches and criminal prosecution.

Yet the figures for the number of incidents do not always correlate to the amount of preventative actions taken.

Oldham has a relatively similar number of incidents and actions in relation to fly-tipping, with 5,672 incidents and 5,077 actions – close to one action per incident on average.

While just up the road in Rochdale, there was a much greater disparity: over the past two years, 5,585 incidents led to just 1,589 instances where the council looked to enforce the law on fly-tipping. Less than a third, around 28%, of incidents appear to have led to action.

When it comes to tackling the issue Rochdale Council seems to be less proactive, although councillor Liam O’Rourke, the council’s cabinet member for climate change and environment, defended the local authority’s record.

He pointed out that among the actions taken by the council were a high number of prosecutions.

Cllr O’Rourke said: “Fly-tipping is a scourge that affects every area of the country but we remain determined to fight it and we always take action where we can.

“The data shows that only a small portion of councils in the country have prosecuted more people than us, and we fully intend to carry on finding and holding to account those responsible.

“Our free bulky waste collection scheme remains extremely popular and has made a huge impact on the amount of potential waste that could have ended up on our streets.”

Prosecutions do make up a fair proportion of punitive measures in Rochdale.

The local authority recorded 17 prosecutions between 2022 and 2023 – a figure which is much higher than the majority of councils in England.

But most of the action remains warning letters, comprising 52.2% of all punitive measures in Rochdale.

Investigations made up a substantial proportion of action, totalling 23.3% of the 1589 reported occasions of council activity, while statutory notice actions made up 20.8%.

But it is not just councils who are keen to see cleaner communities – some residents are taking it into their own hands.

Gillian – who set up Keep Whitworth Tidy nine years ago – believes education has got a big part to play in being proactive to prevent fly-tipping and encourage waste management.

She said: “I’m a teacher and a Scout leader as well and we do talk about things like that. We have had some members go into the local high school because I think it’s that age when they’re not with their parents.

“I’m not saying parents are innocent, but when younger people are out with their mates a bit of it is happening.

“But the big issue doesn’t come from children, it comes from households. We found rubbish tipped over fences, people are driving up to the moors and just tipping rubbish too.”

Keep Whitworth Tidy works closely with the local authority just outside Greater Manchester, Rossendale Council, to dispose of all the waste.

The group bag up as much of the litter as they can and leave it in a place for the council to pick up.

And Gillian explained the group gets a good buzz from cleaning their community.

She said: “You get that feel-good factor because it’s hard work and we do it all sort of weather. In the sun it’s the worst because the rubbish stinks. When you’re finished it’s like wow.”

Gillian’s message to the fly tippers is simple, take it to a rubbish tip or donate it to charity.

But it is not just Rochdale and its surroundings whose residents are keen to clean up their communities.

Esmael Musaji, 32, set up the community litter picking group Keep Lev Tidy earlier this year to take direct action to clean up Levenshulme after he moved to the area last May.

He said: “I didn't realise how bad the issue was with fly-tipping. The litter picks we've done so far have been focusing on the areas that would not routinely be cleaned by the council, for instance the greenery around Levenshulme Medical Practice, which had years of layered rubbish and fly-tipped waste.”

Since Esmael set up Keep Lev Tidy, he has started to think more about the wider root cause of fly-tipping.

He believes there are certain issues in the community which could be addressed to improve the current situation.

Esmael said: “I live nearby to rented multiple occupancy housing which can see a high turnover of people and consequently belongings.

“If they have things they don't know what to do with from a previous resident or on their way out, they will just leave it, usually on the pathway next to where I live. It is likely they do not have access to a car and evidently don't know how to contact the authorities.

“I feel there could be more done from landlords to take more responsibility to ensure residents are regularly held accountable for waste management.”

Manchester City Council is the relevant local authority for Levenshulme and they have helped Keep Lev Tidy with the equipment to carry out their litter picks and frequently respond to reports for fly-tipped dangerous waste.

But Esmael claims these support mechanisms are merely firefighting the issue.

He said: “I would like to see more on what is being done to identify and address root causes. There needs to be a deeper consultation with residents about their waste management challenges.

“This would take a larger investment of people and time into finding different ways to really engage the full spectrum of diversity for local residents and businesses.”

The group believes targeting hard to clean areas and turning them around can help lift spirits and empower more people to take consistent action in the long term.

Esmael said: “We’ve done two cleans so far with a total of 86 bags from a fairly constrained area. If we expand that to a few more streets with more people, it’ll be easily in the hundreds.”

Ultimately, it is the feeling of pride in the community and environment which Esmael is seeking to encourage through voluntary work.

And Manchester City Council is also keen to encourage this behaviour in their communities.

Councillor Lee-Ann Igbon, Executive Member for Vibrant Neighbourhoods, said: “Keep Manchester Tidy, the partnership between MCC and environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, brings people together to help fight litter and fly-tipping across the city.

“The message to keep our communities clean is expected to reach even more residents this year and encourage many to arrange litter picks, instilling pride in where they live and help reduce incidences of fly tipping.”

Feature image by Jon Tyson.

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