Safety measures beefed up to tackle illegal encampments, fly-tipping and lorry parking in Washington

A project aiming to prevent illegal encampments being set up at several sites across Wearside has been backed by local councillors.

Friday, 1st October 2021, 4:45 pm
Top: Rickleton Park, bottom left Car Park off Shepherd Way and bottom right, rubbish dumped near James Steel Park in Washington.

Concerns have previously been raised at the Washington Area Committee about unauthorised encampments at a number of locations, along with sites being used for fly-tipping, illegal lorry parking and antisocial behaviour.

In a bid to tackle the issues, local councillors agreed to align cash for works at several sites – with the funding earmarked across two meetings totalling £120,000.

In practice, the safety measures scheme aims to limit access to certain locations and for certain vehicles with barriers and groundworks.

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Rubbish dumped near James Steel Park in Washington.

According to a report prepared for the Washington Area Committee back in July 2021, some of the sites include James Steel Car Parks, Rickleton Park, Viewpoint Car Park, and Shepherd Way and Staithes Road Car Parks.

The report added that the barriers would be designed to allow access to building services to allow for “all necessary tasks and necessary maintenance to be completed.”

To progress the project to physical works, an equality impact assessment and public consultation were carried out.

At the most recent meeting of the Washington Area Committee on Tuesday, September 28, councillors heard how hundreds of public responses had been received, with a large majority supporting the scheme.

James Steel Park

The main issues identified most by residents included motorbikes/quads, youth anti-social behaviour and drugs and then illegal encampments.

While acknowledging that the new safety measures would not tackle all of the issues at the sites, councillors agreed the project was a step in the right direction.

Councillor Tony Taylor, Washington East representative, welcomed the proposals and Sunderland City Council’s plans to look at its wider unauthorised encampment policy in future.

He added the safety measures should have been brought in sooner due to the scale of the issue in Washington and that a ‘designated transfer site’ would help to “alleviate the problem” going forward.

Councillor Louise Farthing, who represents the Washington South ward, said the safety measures project would also save the council money in the longer term.

“I think that £120,000 does sound like a lot of money, but you have got to take into account that when you have these illegal encampments, it does cost equally that for local services to clear up the mess,” she said.

“Also when it does happen, there’s a public outcry about it and for local councillors we get that outcry and I think it’s not always understood by officers how upset people get by it.

“They [residents] feel that their local park and their local green area is used in a way that they wouldn’t be allowed to use it.

“I think it’s that indignation that causes the most upset – apart from the fact that people do become quite concerned about what’s happening there.”

Cllr Farthing added: “I think for me, even though it does sound like a lot of money, if it does deter and reduce the impact on our local services I think it will prove to be value for money in the longer term.”

Council officers confirmed the scheme would bring several benefits and could go forward from an equalities perspective.

Following approval by the Washington Area Committee, the new barriers are expected to be installed by spring 2022.

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