Jesmond volunteers clean up streets after £22k of littering fines levied
Almost 40 bags of rubbish – mostly alcohol bottles, leaflets and plastic waste – were filled by around 20 volunteers from Keep Jesmond Clean and Newcastle University students last weekend (October 13th) in Jesmond, as Newcastle City Council revealed to JesmondLocal it has fined residents nearly £22,000 for environmental offences in the last four years.
The litter pick exercise sought to tidy up seven streets in Jesmond. Litter on streets is a particular issue in areas of Jesmond that have a higher number of student houses, including Grosvenor Place, Queens Road and Cavendish Road. The problem is worse on weekends with rubbish overflowing from bins on back streets, alcohol bottles and advertisement leaflets scattered in the bushes and streets.
Across the two Jesmond wards, 199 fixed penalty notices for littering have been issued by Newcastle City Council in the last four years to the end of March 2017, resulting in a total of £15,650-worth of fines.
Roy Harris, team manager for environmental protection at Newcastle City Council also told JesmondLocal that in the same time period six people have been prosecuted under sections 33 or 71 of the Environmental Protection Act, resulting in a police record. However, no community payback orders were issued and no offenders were jailed, he confirmed.
A further 15 prosecutions under the Environmental Act have occurred in Jesmond, but these did not result in a police record. Jesmond residents were fined a further £6,346 for littering on top of the amount issued in fixed penalty notices.
Arlene Ainsley, a councillor for South Jesmond who took part in last week’s litter pick, said: “The council has been empowering communities living here to organise such drives themselves. In Jesmond, about 50% houses are student households. We welcome them to Jesmond and do expect them to respect the area.
“For example, I noticed half-empty bottles of wine in front of one house and knocked on the front door. Nobody opened it but I left a ‘Keep Jesmond Clean’ note for them. I also think it is the responsibility of the landlords to provide bins and make sure the tenants are not contaminating the recycling bin with general waste.” Cllr Ainsley explained how litter enforcement officers are doing the rounds in Jesmond and fining residents for littering the streets.
For David Cowen, a resident of Jesmond for more than 20 years, litter picking is an opportunity for exercise. He always carries gloves with him, at-the-ready to pick up litter. He said: “I think one of the biggest problems is that there are houses in Jesmond with multiple occupancies and single bins. The number of students is a problem but they can be sensible about waste-handling and segregation”
Another volunteer, an anaesthetist at Northumbria NHS, Trust added: “At the litter pick, I came across a ‘hippy drug’, nitrous oxide canisters, just scattered on the road. I picked up a lot of alcohol-related garbage, take-away packaging, water bottles and litter from cars as well that are simply thrown on the pavements.”
Sarah Craggs, welfare and equality officer at Newcastle University told JesmondLocal she picked up a lot of promotional leaflets and bottles. “We take it very seriously if somebody complains against our university students and disciplinary action is taken as well. I feel a lot of students are not aware of how the bin collection works and we should make it very clear to them.”
Jack Green, who is co-president of Raising And Giving Society (RAG) at Newcastle University, volunteered at the litter pick, along with his friends. “It was interesting to understand the perspective of residents living in Jesmond along with student population,” he said. “We plan to do a lot of community work this year and raise awareness about the same because I know a lot of students who really want to give it back to the society and we hopefully will be able to involve more students.”
If you’d like to get involved in the next litter pick, email firstname.lastname@example.org.