A county councillor has suggested a booking system for Norfolk's recycling centres could be used to identify and "educate" people who make repeated trips to tips.

Norfolk County Council has said it might have to consider introducing online time slots to cut costs by controlling visits to its 20 recycling centres, with the authority facing an extra £1m bill because of government changes in how much waste can be disposed of for free.

And, at a meeting where the matter was raised, a county councillor said, if such a scheme is brought in, the authority ought to use information given by people booking slots to spot those making a high number of visits to recycling centres.

Eastern Daily Press: Norfolk county councillor John FisherNorfolk county councillor John Fisher (Image: Norfolk County Council)

John Fisher, Conservative county councillor for Woodside division, said the council could then "educate" those people on ways to cut how much rubbish they produce.

Mr Fisher said consultation over the potential closure of Mayton Wood Recycling Centre, near Coltishal, revealed about 95 members of the public said they visited the centre once a week.

He said: "I'm amazed there are families or people generating that amount of waste that they need to visit a recycling centre on a weekly basis or at least a monthly basis.

"Should we be doing more education with the people visiting these recycling centres at such a frequency, because I've no idea how they are generating enough waste to use it on a weekly basis."

Mr Fisher, who said he spends a lot of time in Gloucester, where appointments have to be booked, said, the system "does work" and there are fewer queues as a result.

He said if booking was introduced in Norfolk, it could mean the council would be able to identify the people visiting on a weekly basis.

He asked: "The people who are visiting on a weekly basis, we would then know, so would we then be able to use those statistics to engage and educate, maybe, those people not to generate quite the same amount of waste?"

Eastern Daily Press: Joel Hull, from Norfolk County CouncilJoel Hull, from Norfolk County Council (Image: Newsquest)

Joel Hull, the council's assistant director for waste and water management, said other areas which already run online booking systems are using the data from them to understand how people use services.

However, he added that, if a booking system, was brought in, the council was not planning to limit how many bookings people could make each week.

But the government's yet-to-be announced requirements could mean limits would have to be brought in. 

Charges for large amounts of DIY waste have been in place for more than two decades, but, in 2018, the county council removed a concession which allowed people to leave small amounts of waste for free.

That meant people were charged to leave materials such as rubble, plasterboard, doors, fence panels, fitted units and bathroom suites.

But, following public consultation last year, the government announced it would abolish fees for disposing of limited amounts and types of DIY waste at recycling centres.

The government has yet to clarify what that will mean in practice and, at the moment, people getting rid of such waste at Norfolk's tips still have to pay.

Eastern Daily Press: Norwich North Recycling CentreNorwich North Recycling Centre (Image: Sonya Duncan)

Council officers have said dealing with that waste could add between £500,000 to £1m to County Hall's costs - with the government having signalled Whitehall will not provide any extra cash.

Mr Hull told a meeting of the council's scrutiny committee the government’s position was expected to be that councils should accept two 50-litre bags of DIY waste for free once a week, over a four-week period.

Eastern Daily Press: Norfolk County Council's County Hall headquarters in NorwichNorfolk County Council's County Hall headquarters in Norwich (Image: Mike Page)

He said: "If government is about to impose that sort of precise requirement on councils across the country,  then at that point, that [booking system] may be something we need to look at and consider.

"If it's a process that isn't managed, then there's possibly going to be people benefiting from that service to a greater extent than they are entitled to."

Mr Hull said lessons would be learned from other counties which already have booking systems, such as Suffolk, Kent and Essex.

Opposition councillors had warned a system would deter people from recycling and could lead to increased fly-tipping.