A council that threatened to close up to half its recycling centres could instead hand them to local communities after a “huge” response to a public consultation.
Cumbria County Council closed a consultation this week (19 February) on proposals that could see six of its 14 household waste recycling centres shut, along with cuts to the opening hours of the remaining eight.
The council said in January that the proposed closures would contribute £2m of the £4m it needs to trim from its £29m annual waste and recycling budget.
But Labour councillor Tim Knowles, cabinet member for environment, told MRW the council had received in excess of 2,000 submissions from individuals and groups, as well as petitions opposing closures.
He said: “The last thing I want to do is close sites if there is the possibility we can do things in conjunction with others: community groups, district councils.
“We are looking at proposals we’ve received in response to the consultation. But it is too early for me to say how realistic and viable those suggestions are.”
Conservative council leader Eddie Martin said in a blog post the council could hand services over to “parishes and communities”.
He said: “Some parish councils … are looking at whether they could run a recycling centre.”
The opposition Liberal Democrats say they believe the centres could be saved, asking whether the council considered alternatives to closure before begining the consultation.
Westmorland and Lonsdale Lib Dem MP Tim Farron said: “The reality seems to have dawned on the county council that these services are well used by the community.
“The council has set off down this path to close them without working with communities, parish councils and businesses to see if they could be saved. The public opposition to these plans has been massive.”
Knowles said community groups had approached the council to discuss ways to keep the sites open.
In its submission to the consultation, the Liberal Democrat Group said the proposals were “based on reducing direct costs without taking into account the potential whole-system costs to the county council, districts and the public.”
It said the council “should be ensuring that recycling rates go up and the amount of waste produced down – this is the only way that the total financial cost to Cumbria can be reduced. On the information presented, these proposals will have exactly the opposite effect”.
Friends of the Earth has perviously warned that HWRC closures due to council spending cuts will hit recycling rates and lead to more waste going to landfill.