The future of East Devon’s recycling centres could be under threat if central government proposals to ban charging for DIY waste go ahead.

That’s the stark warning from Devon County councillor Roger Croad. Cabinet member for public health, communities and equality.

The county council is warning that a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) consultation on proposals to reduce flytipping could mean the closure of recycling centres in Devon including those at Sidmouth, Exmouth and at Sutton Barton, near Honiton.

Sidmouth Herald: Exmouth recycling centre. Ref exe 18 18TI 2153. Picture: Terry IfeExmouth recycling centre. Ref exe 18 18TI 2153. Picture: Terry Ife (Image: Terry Ife)

Sidmouth Herald: Sutton Barton Recycling Centre, near Honiton. Picture: DCC.Sutton Barton Recycling Centre, near Honiton. Picture: DCC. (Image: Archant)

If given the go ahead, the DEFRA proposals will mean that households will no longer have to pay to get rid of DIY waste including plasterboards, bricks and bath units.

Devon County Council operates a network of 19 Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) across the County and Cllr Croad is warning that some recycling centres could close or run on a reduced capacity if this proposal goes ahead.

In a letter written to George Eustice, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Cllr Croad argued in the letter that there is simply ‘no evidence’ that fly tipping is caused by charging for DIY waste.

He said: “Fly tipping is a criminal offence and it’s just not correct to suggest that charging for DIY waste is increasing fly tipping. It is just not the case.“

DIY charging was brought in by DCC in 2011 as a direct result of ‘austerity’ budget cuts imposed on the authority at the time.

“As a result of these severe cuts we were faced with a stark choice - permanently close a significant number of our recycling centres or to charge for certain ‘non-statutory’ DIY type wastes,” said Cllr Croad.

“Charging was chosen as a way to deal with the imposed cuts whilst still preserving a good network of HWRC facilities and continuing to provide a good, convenient, accessible service to local householders.

“Charging has been accepted by Devon’s residents as they realise the benefit of having this local disposal service.”

He added: “If this policy went ahead, we would potentially face an annual increase in costs of around £1.2m, putting us in a significantly more difficult position than we were in 2011.

“To believe that this would have no impact on services is frankly just not realistic.”

Cllr Croad said that the charges were ‘fair’ and were set in proportion to the cost of managing the waste.

“It also raises questions about fairness and equality. DIY waste is created as a result of home improvement works by those who can afford them.

“In Devon, where so many households are trying to keep their heads above water and are struggling with the cost-of-living crises, is it fair that those who can afford it aren’t required to pay a relatively small amount to dispose of the waste that they created by choice? And is it fair to then expect the council taxpayer, many of whom are on lower incomes to then pick up the tab? It doesn’t feel right to me.

“Both Devon County Council and the Government are trying to support the disadvantaged and vulnerable and to me this policy seems contrary to the Government’s levelling up agenda.”

Speaking in April when the DEFRA announced the proposals, Environment minister Jo Churchill said: “When it comes to fly-tipping, enough is enough. These appalling incidents cost us £392 million a year and it is time to put a stop to them.

“I want to make sure that recycling and the correct disposal of rubbish is free, accessible and easy for householders.

“No one should be tempted to fly tip or turn to waste criminals and rogue operators.”

The government also announced a number of local authorities would be given grants to tackle fly-tipping through trial projects including CCTV.