How My Local Community Cleaned Up!

a pile of 120+ rubbish bags which are the result of a community clean up

I live in a mill town in the north of England.  The local area is back-to-back terraced houses with an alleyway separating each road. It's very traditional - we've even still got cobbles!  However, that cobbled alleyway is an embarrassment - and has been for a LONG time.

There's a mix of home-owners and rental properties - and the rental properties experience a lot of short-term tenancies.  I've always found that the pride in looking after your house and surrounding area varies dramatically depending on the expectancy of stay in your home. Long-term tenants and home owners want to make a comfortable living space that they can enjoy year after year.  Short-term tenants will only see the end of their tenancy and wonder why they should improve their house only to benefit the landlord and the next occupants. 

Over the past few years, there's been a HUGE problem with waste being dumped in the alley.  There's everything from the mixing of rubbish (contamination) in the wrong bins which means they will not be emptied, which leads to "Bingate" (the stealing of neighbour's bins once they've been emptied).  Once there are no more bins to steal, rubbish is then disposed of in the alley area, along with broken children's toys, furniture and white goods. You can imagine what issues this has caused from an environmental point of view as well as an aesthetic point of view. 

It has been reported to the appropriate authorities however once it has been cleared, it's like Groundhog Day; some residents see this as an opportunity to have another clear-out!

On Tuesday, one of the local landlords together with the owners of the corner shop made the move to bring together the local residents and councillors to organise a "community clean-up".  I do feel that the situation had escalated to such an extent that it was now affecting their businesses (two shops at the end of our street) and some of his tenants, so something had to be done.  I hate to say this but there is a massive issue with rodents because of the amount of rubbish.  I appreciate this is a national problem but I don't want it on my own literal doorstep!

They visited every house in the local area, started a WhatsApp group and encouraged everyone, if able, to come together at the weekend to see what could be done. They even got local councillors involved to raise awareness. 

On Saturday, over 25 of us donned gloves and used local council-provided "Keep It Tidy" equipment to completely clear the local area of all kinds of rubbish. Our local councillor turned up with some colleagues (a couple of whom had previous lived in the area and were disappointed to see how it had degenerated).

It took us just over an hour to collect 120+ bags of rubbish and cut back bushes and weeds to a manageable level. These pictures aren't pretty but I want to show the effort that my neighbours put in!

overflowing bins in an alleywaydomestic rubbish in an alleyway

domestic rubbish in an alleywaydomestic rubbish and overflowing bins in an alleyway

No, this isn't the final solution but it does mean that we have now created a local community group who can start looking out for each other. 

I've lived in this house for almost 16 years and only really know the people within a few doors. Now, I'm glad to say, that I've met more neighbours and we've all got the same goal for our local area - having a nice and safe place to live.

volunteers posing proudly next to a pile of rubbish that has been collected from local alleyways and streets
photo credit : Jon Baldwin

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