Lack of support forces closure of Southwold waste site

The Sole Bay Recycling Centre, Southwold is now charging people to use the facility.; Owner, Graham

The Sole Bay Recycling Centre, Southwold is now charging people to use the facility.; Owner, Graham Murray. - Credit: Archant © 2011

A businessman who took over the running of Southwold's household waste site has blamed a lack of support for his decision to close it.

Graham Murray said that he could no longer afford to keep Sole Bay Community Recycling Centre open and closed the gates permanently on October 1.

People living in Southwold and Reydon now face a 26-mile round-trip to dispose of their household waste – prompting fears that closing the site could lead to fly-tipping in the area.

Mr Murray, who runs the nearby Sole Bay Car Parts, said: 'With regret we closed on October 1. It was really that people didn't want to pay and so it was proving very difficult to keep it going.

'It is sad really. We did try for a couple of years. We advertised it on the radio to try to make it work but that didn't work. You can't keep on if the interest isn't there.'

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In March last year, Mr Murray closed the site in Blyth Road on Sundays, saying it was no longer financially viable to keep it open.

He also told of his dismay at the small number of people using the site over the winter and warned it would close for good if people did not support it.

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He said the situation had not improved and he could no longer afford to pay someone to staff it. Its one employee has continued to work for Mr Murray at his car parts business.

'We couldn't have kept it open any longer,' he said. 'It wasn't even paying the guy's wages.

'We took it on with the support of Southwold Town Council and Suffolk County Council and they said give it a try. We did it for a couple of years but we couldn't afford to run it any longer.

'Some days we would be lucky if we got three people.

'On a Saturday, which you would expect to be busy, we were looking at getting six people all day.'

He added: 'I would like to take the opportunity to thank everybody that did use and support us. The people who have been in have said 'we are sorry to see it close'.'

In May 2011, Suffolk County Council announced plans to close the site along with seven others across county in a bid to save £1.45m from its waste services budget.

A campaign to save Southwold's recycling centre was launched, led by the local Labour party group and supported by Euro MP Richard Howitt.

Mr Murray agreed to privately operate the site and people were charged a small fee to dump their rubbish.

The land was gifted back to Southwold Town Council.

People in Southwold and Reydon now face a long drive to the nearest free-to-use council run sites in south Lowestoft and Leiston.

Mr Howitt expressed his disappointment at the news.

'I am very upset,' he said. 'It is not just about how much we are recycling today but also how much we need to be recycling in the future,

'I see the decision to close it in the first place as a very short-sighted saving by Suffolk County Council that is simply going to lead to more costs in future years... I am not blaming the private operator, who I am sure has done his best. The county council has to be held accountable.'

He added: 'I think there is a real danger of fly-tipping. We will end up with more litter strewn streets and countryside. People are only prepared to go so far to recycle their waste and the alternatives are far too far away.'

While it was under county council control, the Southwold waste site was free to use and it was visited 44,200 times a year, processing 920 tonnes of waste.

It was reopened as Sole Bay Community Recycling Centre on August 15, 2011, and charged £3 for a car, £6 for an estate/MPV, £12 trailer and £20 for a van when dumping household waste.

Southwold mayor Simon Tobin said the town council was 'considering options' for the recycling site.

He said: 'We supported household waste site going into private hands to keep the service operating for the community but it's simply not being used and therefore we understand that the operator has had no other option but to close it.'

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