Under proposals to close a popular recycling depot in Elstree, users are told that the nearest alternative venue is around 20 minutes away in Potters Bar. With a campaign and petitions against the closure gathering pace, the Borehamwood Times decided to put Hertfordshire County Council’s claim to the test.
Of the 17 recycling centres across Hertfordshire, Elstree has been named as one of the two that may close to as part of money-saving cuts.
The county council states that the area is well served by other nearby centres, including Potters Bar, Waterdale and St Albans, adding that around 99 per cent of all residents would still be able to reach a household waste centre within 20 minutes of their homes.
A document containing "Frequently Asked Questions" released to coincide with the consultation states that during off-peak hours, it would take 15 minutes to drive the 7.7 miles from the Elstree site to the Potters Bar centre, rising to 28 minutes one-way during peak hours.
But is this what the Borehamwood Times found after taking a drive with Hertsmere councillors Harvey Cohen and Morris Bright this week?
After checking the route using Google Maps, a map and the sat nav, we set off from Cllr Cohen’s home - just down the road from the Elstree waste centre.
Leaving at 2pm, after the lunchtime busy period and before the school rush, we were looking at around 20 minutes to get to our destination via the A1, five minutes over the 15 minute off-peak estimated time.
Keeping to the speed limit, we made it to the centre in a door-to-dump time of 19 minutes and 23 seconds - under the peak-time limit of 28 minutes, but a full four minutes and 23 seconds higher than the off-peak estimations. The way back was just as problematic, taking 21 minutes and 29 seconds.
Cllr Bright, who used the journey to drop off two cardboard boxes, said: “Roadworks and traffic will obviously make the journey take longer, which isn’t the council’s fault, but it will also make people more likely to just put their recyclables into their black bins.”
Cllr Cohen added: “We deliberately picked the quietest time during the afternoon so we could be fair, but you have to remember that not everyone can go at these times.”
The 15 mile round-trip cost around £3 in petrol, based on the average petrol price in the area.
Councillor Terry Douris, cabinet member for waste management at Hertfordshire County Council, said: "I encourage any residents who have concerns about journey times, or any other aspect of the suggested changes, to include these comments when they respond to our consultation - www.hertsdirect.org/wastechanges. More information is available in the FAQs which are on the consultation webpage. I’d like to remind all residents that no decisions have been made yet and it is really important that they respond to our consultation."
Residents have until August to submit their comments for the consultation. There is also a petition against the planned Elstree closure at consult.hertsdirect.org/petitions/petition?petition_id=194420, which now has more than 500 signatures.