Canterbury Litter Action guides have been running for just over a year now, to help the community get involved in creating a better local environment to live in. Lucy Metcalfe speaks with the local councillor about their current success with these guides.
Six years ago, Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding took control of the Blean Forest Ward, standing by his intentions to make sure residents’ views are well represented. The Litter Action guides are part of the new initiatives put in place since 2015, after the new council came in with Simon Cook taking charge.
These days, Fitter-Harding is responsible for the whole district, working with the quality of resources and community committee, to help tackle litter issues in rural areas.
“The four of us work together to coordinate the council’s response to litter. We have had an interesting few years, getting to grips with the current situation, particularly in Canterbury,” he says.
Litter action guides, Fitter-Harding says, have been a successful way for the community to rid the streets of litter.
“These guides are designed for voluntary groups, associations and organisations that want to help the council with clearing up litter, graffiti, and taking responsibility for their areas.”
While there have been more litter pickers this year, according to Fitter-Harding; littering, flytipping and graffitying is a relative constant. Having residents getting involved has made a huge difference to the amount of litter being found within the district.
This idea, he adds, has worked well for them so far.
Fitter-Harding said: “Local residents tend to know where the problem areas are. They’ve got a much better understanding of their streets, their parks, where the hotspots are. Where the points are that cars roll down the window and throw bin bags out. They know all these things that organisations like Serco aren’t going to instinctively know.”
The councillor has also been involved in a number of litter picks himself, noting that he will join in with any groups that want him along.
He has been working towards making it easier for residents to report litter to the council, and enhancing the website has done the job. Alongside the technical aspects, Fitter-Harding adds that they have tried to deal with reports a lot better than before.
“If someone reports flytipping, we will try and get there right away and get it cleared. Because we don’t want a fridge freezer dumped on the side of the road for example.”
These Litter Action Guides are also full of information about getting involved in a litter pick, reporting any graffiti or litter left in the area and even contact details for getting items removed by the council.
“And ultimately we do bin collections for every household in the district so there is no excuse for not using it or going to one of the recycling centres. There is no excuse for just dumping stuff, we have to try and crack down on the people that do. Otherwise, it just causes a horrible environment for everyone else.”
Littering is not getting any better, people still think that it is acceptable to do so. Fitter-Harding comments on a recent situation that he came across during a litter pick:
Alongside these guides, Fitter-Harding adds, the Parish Council’s have so many volunteers that they set up a litter roundtable.
“This is where the representatives of these different organisations come together with the council offices, to talk about the shared problems that the council can help with. That’s really well attended, probably about 30 people and that’s just the representatives.”
He has found that locally there has been a really big move at the moment to help tackle litter. Throughout the time that Fitter-Harding has been monitoring the litter problem in Canterbury, he has noticed a considerable difference.
“I hope that it continues to make a positive impact, but there’s still more that we can do. It will be an everlasting battle.”
A litter project that continuously needs attention, are the verges of the A2 that runs through the district. He says that it has been quite a difficult task: “Due to certain problems between certain suppliers we haven’t really been able to do it. And if you’ve ever driven through the A2, the litter is pretty bad…it looks pretty bad all the way from Dover.”
For the litter picking to even begin, he adds, they have to get lane closures from Highways England and this can further the difficulty of ridding the roads of Canterbury from litter.