Forty tonnes of rubbish cleared from Tooting Common

Published: Friday 27th September 13

Nearly 40 tonnes of rubbish has had to be removed from Tooting Common following an illegal traveller invasion last week.

The council's contractor Quadron finally picked up the last piece of rubbish on Wednesday after a mammoth effort to clear away wooden planks, rubble, mattresses, furniture and other household waste that appeared on the common at the same time as a group of travellers.

Just some of the waste illegally dumped on the common In total the rubbish weighed 38.96 tonnes. It's believed that the people responsible had driven around the area knocking on people's doors asking if they had any junk they wanted taking away.

But instead of taking it to a proper waste disposal site and paying the appropriate fees, they simply dumped it on the common, leaving taxpayers to foot the £10,000 clean up bill.

The travellers, who descended on the common last Tuesday in a fleet of 19 cars, vans and caravans, left on Thursday after the council ordered them to leave or face prosecution.

However between the time they arrived and the time they left, 40 tonnes of rubbish was dumped in and around Bedford Wood.

The council is now working closely with the Met police's safer parks team and the town hall's own lawyers to trace those responsible and prosecute them for breaching environmental protection laws. Staff in the council's parks department are also examining ways of preventing vehicles from driving onto the common from Bedford Hill.

Environment spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: "The sheer amount of rubbish and waste that was illegally dumped on the common was absolutely breathtaking. It has taken us almost a week to pick it all up and take it away.

"Those responsible for this outrage should have no illusions about the anger this has caused throughout our community. Nor should they feel comfortable in the misguided belief that they've got away with this. We are working very closely with the police and are determined to do all we can to bring them to justice.

"If anyone did see flytipping crimes being committed then I would strongly urge them to come forward and tell us what they saw.

"I would also like to offer our thanks to the Tooting Common management advisory committee which supported our clean-up efforts every step of the way and kindly offered to mobilise an army of volunteers to help if it was needed."

Cllr Cook also urged local residents to say a resounding no to people who knock on their doors and offer to take away their rubbish. Strict environmental protection laws prohibit the transport of waste by unregistered and unlicensed contractors. This is to ensure that the waste is lawfully disposed of rather then being illegally dumped.

He said: "Some of the biggest culprits we come across when it comes to rubbish being flytipped are van drivers on the lookout for homes that are being renovated, having building work done or are having a big clear-out.

"They see that the owners have a lot of waste that needs removing and will knock at the door and offer a cheap deal to take it away.

"Unfortunately what normally happens is that these van drivers just shoot around the corner and dump it. That is why we urge people not to employ these fly-by-night clearance firms."

Residents employing a waste removal firm should always ask to see the relevant waste transfer notes to ensure it is being disposed of lawfully and they should also ask to see a waste carriers licence.

Companies that offer to transport and remove waste on behalf of others must have a carrier's license. These can be obtained from the Environment Agency and they last for three years.

Companies working in this industry must also retain for two years documents showing where the waste came from and where it was taken to be disposed of. Failure to comply with these regulations can lead to hefty fines and even prison sentences.

Residents wanting rubbish cleared can call the town hall. The council will remove waste for a modest fee. If households choose a licenced private contractor instead they must make sure they get a proper receipt.

Residents who witness any incident involving travellers on council-owned land are being urged to contact the town hall's emergency response team. This is a 24 hour service. Occupations of other land should be reported immediately to the police.

The council provides an approved travellers site in Trewint Street, Earlsfield.

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