Docking recycling centre dumped as cuts are approved

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The chairman of a Norfolk County Council committee which backed plans to shut a village recycling centre has insisted he had no choice but to approve the measures.

Members of Norfolk County Council’s environment, development and transport (EDT) committee voted to support plans to shut the centre in Docking during a meeting in Norwich on Friday.

Heacham Re-Cycling Centre Hours to be cut under NCC plans ANL-150920-182817009

Heacham Re-Cycling Centre Hours to be cut under NCC plans ANL-150920-182817009

They also backed proposals to reduce operations at the sites in Heacham and Ashill, as well as a third site at Morningthorpe, near Norwich, to four days a week from the present seven.

But the decision has angered opponents, particularly as it was only passed on the casting vote of the committee’s chairman, Toby Coke. Another West Norfolk councillor, Richard Bird, also abstained in the vote.

However, Mr Coke yesterday maintained there was no alternative to the measures, because of the need to find at least £111 million of savings from the authority’s budgets over the next three years.

He said the Docking site only accounted for around one per cent of both the waste processed and the total number of people who visited the county’s 20 recycling sites, according to the latest figures for 2014-15, adding: “The figures just don’t stack up.”

He also blamed the government for blocking earlier council proposals to charge people to use recycling centres.

He said: “The reality is the only other option is closing it.”

But Andrew Morrison, who represents Docking on West Norfolk Council and addressed the meeting, said: “I’m very disappointed and the people of the 20 surrounding villages who are served by it will be very disappointed.”

The meeting was told that the closure plan, which will be the subject of a public consultation, would account for around a quarter of the estimated £280,000 per year savings identified in the plan as a whole.

Mr Morrison said: “I realise that the impact of cuts from central government has been very difficult to manage, but we at the borough council have managed very well.

“It’s sad to see that, for a relatively small amount, they don’t see this as a way of being loyal to the sort of people they should be seeking to support, rural communities that are suffering from not very good broadband, not very good transport and feel neglected because they pay the same council tax.”

Mr Coke said he “fully appreciated” the decision, which will be the subject of a public consultation exercise if it is approved, will inconvenience local people.

But he added: “The council is caught between a rock and a hard place and, in the current circumstances, there aren’t really any other options.”

Mr Morrison also expressed concerns that the decision could lead to more increased fly-tipping in the area.

But officials told the meeting there was no evidence to support that argument.

Mr Coke is also expected to attend a special meeting on the issue in Docking over the next few weeks.