Sunday, 29 May 2011

Veolia: dirty dealings in Haringey

On Wednesday night I attended a packed ‘Friends of Stationers Park’ emergency meeting, which had been called because of the swiftly deteriorating state of the park. Reg, the park warden who had been stationed in a hut at the bottom end of the Green flag park, retired in April, and in that short space of time the litter has mushroomed, much altering the attractiveness of this essential ‘green lung’ of Stroud Green.

Two representatives from Haringey Council were present, one of whom candidly stated that “the standard of the parks we’ve had in the borough over the last few years can’t be maintained.” This is of course because of the budget cuts, which mean that parks will now be under-resourced and much will depend on local people (“Don’t even SAY ‘Big Society’!” warned one attendee) when it comes to ongoing maintenance. There was no lack of enthusiasm for taking control of the park, and local children are to be drafted in to help pick up litter.

There was a curious moment when it was suggested that people doing Community Payback could be made use of to help with the tasks. The consensus was that it ‘wasn’t right’ for Stationers Park, as the park was ‘too small’ (“It would work for Finsbury Park”), and that the school children would see the criminals and this would lead to ‘awkward questions’. Having been pleased to see people doing Community Payback painting the playground on the estate where I live, I was surprised by this attitude.

The most heated discussion of the evening, however, concerned Veolia, the waste company who have recently taken over the Haringey waste contract. This controversial company, who have been targeted by activists due to their dubious involvement in Palestine and the Occupied Territories, have taken up residence in nine parks across the borough.

They have taken over Reg’s old hut in Stationers Park, although, incredibly, they aren’t contracted to pick up the litter in the park! Indeed, they have been ‘dumping’ bags of litter behind the hut, causing an eyesore. (A waste company dumping rubbish – oh the terrible irony!).

But it gets worse. They have erected an ugly-as-sin corrugated metal fence (without, we suspect, planning permission). In so doing, they have damaged the roots of a beautiful silver birch tree.

There have been similar complaints about Veolia’s behaviour in nearby Priory Park.

My own experience of their service so far is that they have failed to collect the rubbish from the estate in a timely manner, leading to rubbish overflowing from the bins (see above picture) and blowing all over the estate. As one of my neighbours commented to me last week (as we stood conversing next to a pile of dog poo and a used surgical dressing), “This place gets worse and worse.” Indeed, we have rats running around behind the bin chamber and in the back gardens now, which is no surprise.

Daily calls to Veolia, Haringey Council and Homes for Haringey (how nice it would be just to have to make ONE phone call!) have resulted in our Estate Manager admitting that Veolia are causing huge problems all over the borough.

It is worth bearing in mind that Veolia are one of the three waste companies bidding to run the misguided MBT plant in Pinkham Way. Surely Haringey Council will look at their record so far and turn down their bid? We can only hope for once that common sense prevails.

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