Councillors want to turn Sunderland back lanes into 'usable outdoor space for growing plants and socialising'

Councillors have pledged to involve the public in finding solutions to “untidy and uninviting” back lanes on Wearside.

Thursday, 24th June 2021, 8:49 pm
Councillors have pledged to involve the public in finding solutions to “untidy and uninviting” back lanes on Wearside.
Councillors have pledged to involve the public in finding solutions to “untidy and uninviting” back lanes on Wearside.

Sunderland City Council’s Conservative group launched a debate to look at improving the condition of residential back lanes for local residents.

The motion suggested that back lanes can often be an eyesore, as well as attracting fly-tipping issues, anti-social behaviour and speeding and parking problems.

New proposals aimed to launch a public consultation to understand residents’ concerns and to identify preferred solutions, which would then be reported back to the council’s area committees.

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Following the consultation, Conservatives said a number of pilot areas could also be identified across the city to implement solutions.

In addition, the opposition group called for an audit of how many waste bins and dog bins are in the vicinity of residential areas with multiple back lanes.

Councillors debated the motion at a full council meeting on Wednesday (June 23), which was held within the Montgomery Suite at the Stadium of Light.

Councillor Antony Mullen, leader of the Conservative group, said the motion was devised following discussions at the West Area Committee about tackling litter and fly-tipping through enforcement in back lanes.

“Whilst the proposals to consider more enforcement officers and more CCTV are welcomed, what struck me was the extent to which we’re proposing to do things to our residents rather than to involve them in the decision-making about that,” he said.

Cllr Mullen added the motion aimed to encourage residents to take responsibility for their back lanes, which may reduce the need for “punitive” actions such as fines.

He went on to say: “What we’re asking for is an opportunity for co-design to allow residents to re-imagine what their back lanes look like, what they’re for and how they’re used so that they can take ownership for them and to be part of the solution, rather than us punishing them.”

Although the motion won support from all political groups, this was with an amendment by the council’s Labour group.

The changes included reference to an audit into dog bins and waste bins already taking place and a suggestion that back lanes could be turned into “usable outdoor space for growing plants and socialising.”

During debate, councillors stated that issues around back lanes varied depending on different areas of Sunderland – from litter in the inner city to issues with unadopted roads in the Coalfields.

In Silksworth, Labour councillor Phil Tye said selective licensing could be brought in to deal with fly-tipping issues stemming from landlords in certain areas.

Meanwhile councillor Niall Hodson, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said the proposals in the motion were “positive and proactive” but that more resources were needed for the council’s environmental services team.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said there were tools available at the council’s disposal to tackle environmental crime such as the recently-adopted public spaces protection order.

But he added he was happy to support a consultation on back lanes if it gave the council a “better answer” on what residents wanted.

“At the end of the day, it can’t do us any harm to talk to and listen to our residents,” he said.

“I will agree with Cllr Mullen on one thing, we need to be seen to be doing and working more with them, [rather] than doing things to them which we have in the past had a habit of doing,” he said.

The amended motion was agreed with a unanimous vote.

The motion reads:

Council recognises the need to take action to improve the condition of residential back lanes across the city.

Back lanes often look untidy and uninviting, as well as attracting fly-tipping issues, anti-social behaviour, and speeding and parking problems.

To improve the state of back lanes for local residents, council agrees to learn from the Reclaim the Lanes project and undertake the following actions:

To launch a public consultation among residents with back lanes to understand their concerns and preferred solutions, and to report back to each area committee.

To subsequently identity a number of pilot areas across the city to implement the solutions and ideas identified by residents.

To support residents who may look to increase social and environmental benefits with proposals to turn lanes into usable outdoor space for growing plants and socialising.

As part of the current city wide audit of waste and dog bins, to review additional need in the vicinity of residential areas with multiple back lanes.