Residents suffering 'horrendous smells' and rodent problems due overflowing waste mountain at Leighton Buzzard flats beg Central Beds Council for help

'We are finding dead birds, rats, and cats under the excessive waste far too many times'

Monday, 14th June 2021, 4:32 pm
Updated Monday, 14th June 2021, 4:34 pm

Frustrated Leighton Buzzard residents are urging Central Beds Council to provide extra bins for their flat block, claiming that the current number is simply not enough.

Families in the flats on Plum Tree Lane claim that the two big, communal black waste bins and one recycling bin are not sufficient for 18 homes - all but one with multiple children - and that it is akin to sharing just seven single bins between them. By contrast, in a row of 18 houses there would be 18 single black bins and 18 recycling bins.

The concerned parents claim that the bins are filling up quickly each week and attracting rats and other unwanted wildlife, while the closest six houses are suffering "horrendous smells".

The three bins and excess waste, Photo: Ollie Keen.
The three bins and excess waste, Photo: Ollie Keen.

Resident and mother, Ollie Keen, 28, told the LBO: "The overflow happens every single week without fail. Bin day is a Tuesday, but by Friday the bins are spilling out at the top and the car park begins to fill.

"The waste contractors/bin men do an amazing job; they are unable to hook up overspilling bins to the truck, so they have to stop and drag most of the bags out on to the floor, just so they can do their job, as well as kicking themselves a clear path.

"It wastes a lot of their time. They are very helpful, stopping to talk to us, and agreed on several occasions that they could do their job more efficiently if a third or fourth bin were there and have said this to the council on our behalf several times.

"When available, residents will run down on bin day to help them out, clearing spaces and having a chat."

She added: "We in no way expect them to hand collect all the extra bags and toss them into the truck. What we do expect is enough bin space provided by the council so the bins do not have to be overflowing or bags all over the floor."

Ollie told the LBO that families have sometimes resorted to keeping bags of smelly rubbish in their house if the bins are already full.

She described a real "community spirit" in the flats, with the children rallying round to pick up litter - especially in the winter - when overflowing rubbish can become strewn across the block lawn in the wind.

Describing the mess, she added: "We also have a serious rodent issue, foxes, rats etc. We are finding dead birds, rats, and cats under the excessive waste far too many times. And they of course drag the waste around in the summer months, including food, nappies and sanitary products, roasting in the sun on our lawn. It is incredibly stressful, and a key reason residents have moved away in the past."

Ollie claims that she has a backlog of photographic evidence for the last four years, and has been disappointed the council's response to their concerns.

In April, the residents received a letter from CBC stating that: "It has been noted that your bins are being contaminated, household rubbish bags are overflowing and not being disposed of correctly."

But Ollie told us: "It was bittersweet acknowledgement. This letter was the first real piece of contact we've had regarding the bins. I personally found insulting as I am very cautious with my waste, trying to both recycle and be as waste/single waste free as possible.

"We are already doing so much. For example, holding our agreement to not take down litter after a Sunday, and making sure we rotate our clearing up duty. They would know this if anyone had been down to speak to us about the issue."

Central Bedfordshire and Leighton-Linslade Town Councillor Amanda Dodwell, who has been investigating the problem, said: "There has been a problem at Plum Tree Lane for several years, with waste bins overflowing and rubbish mounting up around the bins.

"This leads to a 'catch-22' situation: if the bins are full, waste is put alongside the bins... but if there is rubbish alongside the bins that restricts access to them, the bins don't get emptied... and so on..."

"The problem is made worse because, according to the measures used to determine such things, the bin capacity is sufficient for the number of people using them.

"Clearly, this does not help the residents and a pragmatic approach needs to be taken. I have spoken to the Housing Department at CBC, and they have suggested several measures that will hopefully help to resolve this problem.

"Firstly, officers from the housing team will monitor the situation on a regular basis, and if necessary clear the excess rubbish to ensure it is possible for contractors to empty the bins on time.

"Secondly, the amount and type of waste being generated will be looked at to see if anything can be done to reduce non-recyclable waste.

"And thirdly, the council will take steps determine if fly tipping is taking place, and put in place measures to combat this should it prove necessary.

"In the meantime, I am really sorry for the worry and concern this is causing the residents, and I am committed to working with them to get a long term solution."

A Central Bedfordshire Council spokeswoman, said: “We have reviewed the number of bins provided at this residence and can confirm that the number is accurate, in line with our policy.

“We check the bins on a weekly basis and help by removing any extra waste, to assist in alleviating any problems with overflowing bins.

“There have been a number of issues around of decontamination of the recycling being placed into the bins, which in turn means our contractor will not empty them. Due to this issue, letters have been sent to residents to remind them to recycle the correct items.”

Residents can see recycling tips, including a video on what can be included in their recycling bin on our website: https://www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/info/2/waste_and_recycling/610/recycling_different_types_of_wasteHowever Ollie said: "Fly-tipping happens around our bin site, mostly non residents we believe. It's obviously a concern that we'd like to see fixed. However, we feel its a 'scapegoat' to the bin problem, as it does not in any way effect the bins being collected or how full the bins get.

"We do recycle, that bin gets full. Some waste is simply not recyclable and we need more waste bins for it, so an additional recycling bin will not fix this problem either.

"We have never been told why we cannot be granted another bin. The only response we once had was that 'the current bins meet the minimum bin provision required' and so despite years of physical evidence and contact. It seems they are not willing to budge over the minimum."

What's your view? Do you live here too, or have you a similar problem in another part of LBO land? Email [email protected]