No date has yet been set for a return to normal at the tidy tip in Bedford as a top officer revealed that online pre-booking could have a permanent role in the future.
One of the options being looked into is whether to keep the booking system at the household waste recycling centre at weekends, and a meeting heard last week that the council is gathering information from other councils.
Conservative group leader Cllr Graeme Coombes (Wilshamstead) asked if they would confirm that it is the council’s intention to return to normal when covid restrictions are lifted.
“There is a need for spontaneity,” said Cllr Coombes, who said residents “clearing the garage out on a sunny day” would be put off going to the tip when they had to wait a few weeks for their slots.
Paul Pace, the council’s chief officer for the environment, said: “We are reviewing services on an almost daily basis.
“When we can open up, when we feel we are in a safe position to do so, we will.”
Mr Pace referred to “councils not a million miles away” making booking mandatory. Milton Keynes Council has made that move amid a political row.
Mr Pace added that “we have had comments about it, that it is helpful in some ways and there are pluses and minuses with everything.”
Cllr Tim Hill (Lib Dem, Elstow & Stewartby) wondered whether things would ever return to normal.
“It needs some sort of management for the rest of our lives basically,” he said.
Mr Pace had earlier told the committee that 512 vehicles visit the site every day but still about 14% of people who book slots do not then turn up. He said this is “frustrating” but the system is able to cope with it.
But one of the thoughts officers are having is introducing a “booking system at the weekends to guarantee that people can go there without waiting for an hour to get on site.”
The environment and sustainable communities overview and scrutiny committee on Thursday (March 4) heard that one of the issues at the Barkers Lane site is the long queues that cause problems on the road.
The tip has a one in, one out system.
“Maybe we could have a hybrid system or something else to provide a better service to members of the public going forward,” added Mr Pace.
“But nothing has been confirmed yet, we’re just gathering information and seeing what other authorities are doing and how that is working.”
by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter