Fly tipping in Gorgie/Dalry: 2015-2020 Statistics, Analysis, and Ideas

Image credit: GDCC

Executive Summary

  • Data requested by Gorgie Dalry Community Council from the City of Edinburgh Council shows that Sighthill/Gorgie was the worst ward in 2020 for reports of fly tipping, and that it is experiencing the largest sustained increase in reported fly tipping across the city.
  • Despite only comprising 6.5% of the population of the City of Edinburgh, 12.5% of fly tipping reports in 2020 were in Sighthill/Gorgie. This is 39.5% more reports than any other ward in the city, and 133 more reports per year on average.
  • 9 out of the top 10 worst streets for fly tipping in Sighthill/Gorgie in 2020 are in the Gorgie/Dalry Community Council area. The most badly affected streets in the ward were: Stewart Terrace, Springwell Place, Gorgie Road, Wardlaw Street, Wardlaw Terrace, Stenhouse Drive (not in G/D), Dalry Road, Duff Street, Caledonian Crescent and Caledonian Place.
  • Residents have witnessed trade and other private vehicles driving into residential side-streets in Gorgie/Dalry and dumping waste items next to or into communal bins, and then driving away.
  • GDCC are working hard alongside residents, local Councillors, and other community groups to tackle fly tipping and improve our area. However, these figures show that we need more support and resources to be effective, and that more needs to be done by the City of Edinburgh Council.

Introduction

Over the past year Gorgie Dalry Community Council have been aware of an increase in the amount of fly tipping, dumping, and litter in our area. We have reported many of these items ourselves, received and forwarded reports from residents, and held recurrent discussions on fly tipping at our public meetings. Residents have expressed frustration with the lack of preventative action from the City of Edinburgh Council, and reported that the state of our neighbourhood is having a negative effect on their mental health.  

As the local Community Council, we wanted to know whether fly tipping is becoming more common across the city, particularly during lockdown, and/or if Gorgie/Dalry is in fact a hotspot for dumping. On 27th November 2020 we put in a Freedom of Information (FOI) enquiry to the City of Edinburgh Council asking the following questions:

  • Question 1: The annual number of fly-tipping reports across Edinburgh, broken down by Ward. This relates to each of the years 2015-2020.
  • Question 2: A street-by-street breakdown of fly tipping reports for Gorgie/Dalry for each of the past five years.

We received a response on 24th December 2020. Based on these sets of data, we have produced the following analyses, outline what has been done by the community and local representatives so far, and raise suggestions for possible solutions. 

This report follows a structure based on several key questions: 

  • What does the data on fly tipping in Edinburgh show? 
  • Where is all this rubbish coming from? 
  • What can be done about fly tipping in Gorgie/Dalry?

What does the data on fly tipping in Edinburgh show?

Question 1: The annual number of fly tipping reports across Edinburgh, broken down by Ward.
Figure 1. Table created by GDCC using CEC data published in response to FOI.
Figure 2. Graph created by GDCC using CEC data published in response to FOI.

From this table and our graph we can see a clear increase over time of fly tipping reports in Sighthill/Gorgie, making it now the ward with the most reports across the whole city; in 2020 it had 39.5% more reports than the next largest ward (an excess of 386 individual reports). Sighthill/Gorgie comprised 12.5% of all the reports across the whole city in 2020, relative to only 6.5% of the population (2019 Census Estimate: 33,826 local population, 524,930 city wide population).

It is clear that although fly tipping is on the increase across multiple wards in Edinburgh, Sighthill/Gorgie is experiencing the largest sustained increase in reported fly tipping across the city: this has been the case since at least 2015 with an average increase year on year of 133 reports pa; this compares to the next highest increase seen in Liberton/Gilmerton with an average increase of 67.2 pa. However, there are also some wards where fly tipping reports have actually decreased: Leith Walk, Forth, City Centre, and Pentland Hills. This suggests that there are lessons and possible actions that can be taken to address fly tipping in Gorgie/Dalry.

Figure 3. Table created by GDCC using CEC data published in response to FOI.

It should be stressed that this data is of the number of fly tipping reports and not the number of fly tipping events. However, reports of fly tipping are the best proxy data we can get. By matching this data with anecdotal reports by residents via email and social media, and our own lived experiences as residents, we are convinced that this increase in reports does represent a very real increase in fly tipping in the area.

Question 2: A street-by-street breakdown of fly tipping reports for Gorgie/Dalry for each of the past five years.

In this section we analyse the data we received for Question 2, which details the breakdown of the number of fly tipping reports per street. We have assigned all the streets with more than 5 reports to their respective Community Council. (Note that there is potential for mistakes in this exercise, especially around the boundaries of the CCs as some streets fall under more than one CC area. The raw data we were sent from the City of Edinburgh Council is available from their website, the following graphs are composed of processed data conducted by GDCC.)

Figure 4. Graph created by GDCC using CEC data published in response to FOI.
Figure 5. Graph created by GDCC using CEC data published in response to FOI.
Figure 6. Graph created by GDCC using CEC data published in response to FOI.
Figure 7. Graph created by GDCC using CEC data published in response to FOI.

What we can see from this is that the majority of highly affected streets in the whole ward are in Gorgie/Dalry, with 68% of streets that had more than 5 reports being in Gorgie/Dalry. Even if all streets with under 5 reports are not in Gorgie/Dalry (an unlikely scenario), we can be confident that at least 54% of all streets reported are in Gorgie/Dalry. The choice of 5 reports as a threshold retains 53 streets in the analysis, representing 80% of all reports. Note that the overall mean number of reports per street is 5.3, and hence use of this threshold ensures inclusion of all streets with a mean greater than or equal to the average. Although the number of reports may well be affected by the length of the street, it was not feasible to take this into account. The 5 report threshold per street accounts for not all Community Council areas in the Sighthill/Gorgie ward appearing on these graphs (notably Hutchison/Chesser).

Where is all this rubbish coming from?

This data and analysis raises then a key question: what makes Sighthill/Gorgie, and Gorgie/Dalry in particular, such a hotspot for fly tipping? Similar areas in terms of housing type, density and other SIMD values don’t seem to have experienced the same rise of reports. Leith, which is also formed of high density tenement flats, experienced a large decrease in reports immediately after 2015, followed by a slow increase after 2017. It is reasonable to assume that the people of Leith have not simply stopped reporting fly tipping or that the people in Sighthill/Gorgie have not started to report more for no good reason.

Within the Gorgie/Sighthill ward, Gorgie/Dalry does have a higher density of housing compared to the other CC areas in Sighthill/Gorgie that met the comparison threshold. However, as the Leith comparison demonstrates, density of housing does not fully explain the difference, and we should not assume that fly tipping in Gorgie/Dalry is solely from local residences. Community Councillors and residents have reported regularly witnessing trades vehicles and private vehicles driving into Gorgie/Dalry, parking by communal bins, and dumping items next to or into communal bins (which also means that bins are sometimes too full for residents to use). Sometimes these items can be traced back to the location of origin: on one occasion bins and a street sign had clearly come from locations as far away as West Lothian! When possible, residents and City Councillors have reported incidences to the police, however we are not aware of any resultant action being taken. Trades vehicles have also been dumping items in broad daylight, at peak times, some of whom residents have caught in the act, and passed recordings and images on to the police.

This ‘drive up and dump’ behaviour suggests that offenders are aware of the lack of CCTV coverage on residential side streets, intentionally travel to the area to dump items and avoid paying to dispose legally, and wait for residents to report to the Council for uplift. The frequency of these incidents (as reported by residents via social media) suggests that measures such as the signs on bins and street furniture in Gorgie/Dalry that warn people not to dump are ineffective – on many bins people have dumped items in front of the ‘no dumping signs’, or the signs are broken after several years of wear and tear. It also suggests that relying on a strategy of report and uplift (without enforcement or deterrence) may in fact make the problem worse; if offenders know that items they dump in Gorgie/Dalry will be uplifted free of charge and without consequences, then they may be incentivised to return to the area the next time they want to dispose of waste. This strategy also places a burden on residents and the Community Council to report the problem retrospectively, rather than the CEC acting to prevent items being dumped in the first place.

Image credit: GDCC
Figure 7. Graph created by GDCC using CEC data published in response to FOI.

When we plot several of the most affected streets in Gorgie/Dalry we can see that there is a mix of situations; we can see that many of the streets appear to be getting slightly worse over time. Others such as Springwell Place and Wardlaw Street became significantly worse over only a couple of years. It is unlikely to be a coincidence that the worst streets are often side-streets off Gorgie Road and Dalry Road, where there is no CCTV and (in some cases) ample space for vehicles to stop next to bins (such as Wardlaw Terrace). More positively, we can see an appreciable decline in the number of reports from Caledonian Crescent and Stewart Terrace, though the latter is still the street with the most reports in the whole ward.

What can be done about fly tipping in Gorgie/Dalry?

These data confirm what residents have been reporting to us throughout 2020: that fly tipping in Gorgie/Dalry is a constant problem, is significantly worse than in other parts of the city, and has become more frequent over time.

Other Edinburgh wards such as Pentland Hills and Leith Walk have in the past experienced high levels of fly tipping reports but have since managed to reduce the numbers down significantly. We are unsure what caused these decreases; possibilities include Council policy changes, engagement in the community (such as the Zero Waste Scotland community campaign in Leith), increased police presence in the area as a deterrent, or simply changes in the way this data is recorded, especially in the Pentland Regional Park & Wester Hailes. We are keen to hear from Community Councils in these wards to learn how these decreases were achieved, and if there are solutions that could be trialled or applied in Gorgie/Dalry. However, GDCC is a small group of volunteers, many of whom have full time jobs and caring responsibilities; we cannot be left to tackle this issue alone, and the burden of responsibility should not be left to residents.

We are aware that our local Councillors have already taken some steps to raise this issue on our and residents behalf, which we have included in our below list of possible actions for the City of Edinburgh Council to take, as they are practical solutions that have already been proposed. However, some of these ideas have reportedly been delayed by the CEC due to Covid-19 restrictions, and as yet, we are yet to see concrete action. Residents are thoroughly fed up with Gorgie/Dalry being treated like a free dump, and it is no longer acceptable to delay the work or resources needed to keep our area clean.

As GDCC Councillors Joan Gordon and Angela Astor commented, “We are glad to see residents, local community groups and Councillors all attempting to find a solution to fly tipping in Gorgie/Dalry. There has to be a solution to this problem – and we have faith that we will find it!”.

What the City of Edinburgh Council could do:

  • Increase the number of Street Enforcement Officers to report illegal dumping and issue fines. This would reduce the burden of reporting from residents, and crucially would deter repeat offenders. Until this is resourced, there should be increased patrols of the existing Street Enforcement Officers from low-fly tipping areas to Gorgie/Dalry to make effective use of existing resources.
  • Reassess the amount of money currently allocated to tackling fly tipping within the CEC budget, with transparent explanations to Gorgie/Dalry residents as to how Council Tax revenue is currently being spent, and how the waste budget is allocated across the city. If it is not possible to increase the levels of funding from within the existing CEC budget, then the CEC should look to what external funds then can apply to in order to tackle fly tipping in the worst affected areas of Edinburgh.
  • Free uplift days, where the CEC places skips and cages across Gorgie/Dalry on designated days for residents to dispose of larger waste items. This would be particularly useful for residents who struggle to access recycling centres due to low-car ownership in Gorgie/Dalry. We know that this has been successfully run in other parts of Edinburgh such as Wester Hailes, and that local Councillors for Sighthill/Gorgie have requested this; however CEC officers have responded that this is currently not possible due to Covid-19.
  • Review successful fly tipping reductions in other wards (such as Leith Walk and the Pentland Hills) and work with GDCC and other local community groups to understand what lessons can be applied to tackling fly tipping in Gorgie/Dalry.

What the Gorgie/Dalry community can do:

  • Contact your local City Councillors to support their requests for more resources from the City of Edinburgh Council.
  • Continue to report fly tipping incidents to the City of Edinburgh Council, as this will help to measure the effectiveness of any interventions.
  • Attend the next Gorgie Dalry Community Council public meeting, online and via the phone, on February 1st 2021 at 7pm, where we hope to have a discussion with an officer from the CEC Waste Department about this report. Email gorgiedalrycommunitycouncil@gmail.com or text 07835 908 453 for details on how to join.
  • Join the local ‘Keep Gorgie Clean‘ campaign.
  • Let us know if you have ideas on how to tackle fly tipping in our community! Whilst there are tried and tested ways of reducing fly tipping, they might not all be the best solution for our local area, and we would love to hear creative ideas from the community. Email gorgiedalrycommunitycouncil@gmail.com or call 07835 908 453.

Report written by Gorgie Dalry Community Council
January 2021

Any questions about this report, or comments, can be sent to gorgiedalrycommunitycouncil@gmail.com. Please be aware that we are volunteers, and may not be able to immediately respond. Any inaccuracies or mistakes with the processed datas are solely the fault of GDCC, and the data supplied by the City of Edinburgh Council can be accessed via their website


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