For the past year Hubbub has partnered with Oldham Council exploring whether community action can cut fly-tipping. We worked in five streets to gain a greater understanding of the causes of fly-tipping and to explore solutions. Results have been mixed.

Initial research with residents highlighted that most felt fly-tipping was caused by people living in the area. This fly-tipping occurred on land which nobody felt was owned including the alleyways at the back of terraced housing. In the less populated areas on the outskirts of town ‘commercial’ fly-tipping became more significant.

Interviews discovered that most people felt connected to their immediate area but a sense of pride often ended at the front-door with space outside the house being seen as the responsibility of somebody else. Local tensions were apparent. Embedded existing cultural groups were wary of new arrival communities who were often transient and housed by private landlords. This lack of trust created a barrier to building a strong sense of local community.

Working with the local councillors, community support teams and local police we found small bands of residents - exclusively women - who wanted their neighbourhood to improve. This was driven by a variety of factors including wanting safe spaces for children to play or concern that the neighbourhood was heading ‘downhill’.

We wanted to see whether we could give these motivated residents the support they needed to turn their immediate area from somewhere that was fly-tipped into a safe, usable space. Three streets have achieved this whilst, so far, two others haven’t.

In the areas where community action has worked, the women leading the activities were ‘forces of nature’ able to win the respect of neighbours. There were sufficient numbers to create a mutually supportive group and they had a very clear idea of what they wanted. With these groups Hubbub’s role was to find how best to turn their ambition into action.

Through trial and error, we have a range of activities that have proven to be successful including skills training, community events and bright vibrant messaging that has created a sense of pride of place. These activities have been turned into an inspiration guide which is freely available to residents who want to transform their shared spaces.

 

 

In the two unsuccessful areas there was a notable difference in the levels of trust between neighbours. This was often the result of different cultural backgrounds and a high level of transience. This meant more time was needed to create the right climate for social action. In partnership with the council we will continue to work with these residents to explore further techniques that can be used to create a resident-led movement.

The process we have followed is slow, expensive and intensive. It requires the on-going commitment of all partners – but most of all the residents themselves. Fly-tipping is often a signal of disconnected communities and can only be addressed if trust and interaction between residents is built. This is not a quick-fix approach and cannot be paid for by savings made on reduced fly-tipping costs.

Based on our experiences to-date Hubbub now wants to explore whether we can create a sustainable model that is impactful and easier to scale and replicate. Our four-step model to approach this is:

Step 1) Helping communities who are ready to act

Across Oldham there are communities who are ready to act but need help, guidance and inspiration. We will tell the stories of the three successful communities in an inspirational street display in Oldham town centre. This will seek to find other residents willing to act as leaders in their locality. These residents will be supported by grant funding, the inspiration guide and mentor support from successful communities.

Step 2) Building understanding about those communities not ready to act

Communities that are not in a position to act are vulnerable to isolation and stress. Hubbub will work with the council and its partners to understand and respond to the deep-seated problems faced by these residents. Our aim is to help them get to a position where they are able to create a safer and greener local environment.

Step 3) Improving the infrastructure

The physical infrastructure of Oldham sometimes creates an environment conducive to fly tipping. The legacy of high-density terraced housing and back alleyways now without a purpose have created an easy dumping ground for bulky items of waste.

Encouragement to use bulky waste collection services and the recycling centre could be improved and Hubbub is seeking to do this through campaign messaging such as information boards placed in transformed alleyways.

Hubbub plans to work with a local social housing provider to discover whether there is an alternative model of service infrastructure which could make it easier for residents not to fly-tip. We will also explore whether there are there ways that public space can be redesigned so it is less easy to fly-tip and generates a sense of greater shared ownership and community purpose.

Step 4) Expanding to other areas

Our work in Oldham has enabled Hubbub to create a delivery model that might work in other locations. We would be intrigued to see if we can work with other councils to:

  • Create one or two community campaigns that can as an inspiration to others.
  • Build a high profile display in a central location highlighting why cutting fly-tipping is important and how communities can act.
  • Use the display to help other communities deliver their own campaigns with grant funding and inspiration guides

If any local authority or social housing provider is interested in exploring this approach please get in touch.

Fly-tipping is one of those gritty local problems that angers people and degrades the quality of life. Our work has demonstrated how intractably linked it is to wider social problems that need addressing. We have demonstrated that we can help neighbourhoods that need some support to take action but where there are more ingrained difficulties a different approach is required.