Litter in the pavement, litter in the park, is this what we really want to see for Balsall Heath? I certainly hope not.
Bin strikes, uncollected waste and fly-tipping have been a heated topic in the area and in some cases causing neighbourly disputes which could’ve been prevented. Fly tipping is illegal and perpetrators’ can be fined up to £20k not to mention the distress caused to communities as no one is held to account and continues to be an on-going problem.
I recall a time when Balsall Heath Forum used to have neighbourhood wardens who patrolled the streets, got to know the residents, listened to their voice and issues and took action not to mention hold irresponsible people to account for dumping waste.
But 10 years on so much has changed since funding constraints and organisations are cash strapped, yet the demand for such community service remains the same if not increased in the area due to extended families moving back to their family homes to support their elderly parents.
Recently, my neighbour had brought to my attention that the alley way adjoining St Paul’s Road properties and that of Melrose Avenue had become a dumping ground by irresponsible people leaving soiled mattress amongst other waste (which I was oblivious to) and was alarmed as it was a health and safety issue which meant that our escape route in eventuality of a fire was blocked, not to mention an environmental concern for the neighbourhood as it encouraged a mountain of rubbish to pile up which is not good for people with respiratory problems (i.e. asthma, COPD, etc.)
Fortunately a neighbour had cleared this up at their expense as they were doing some building work on their property and couldn’t access the alley to get to the skip, but this should not have been the case.
It’s easy to turn a ‘blind eye’ to such problems as it may not be our rubbish so not our responsibility to clean up after others. However, we mustn’t forget that it’s ‘our’ neighbourhood therefore it becomes a ‘shared problem’ to find a practical solution. We all assume that ‘somebody’ will clear up, but ‘nobody’ really does leaving residents frustrated when the reality is anybody’ could take the initiative to help to tackle the problem.
That is why on Saturday 24th August 2019, on a glorious sunny morning, a ‘community litter pick’ was organised by ‘CleanupUK’ The Beautiful Birmingham project and supported by firefighters from West Midlands Fire Service, Highgate as part of their ‘arson reduction’ remit. A team of 8 people gave up their time and effort on a bank holiday weekend to take part in this initiative; one selfless helper from Solihull had only popped into the local garage to get his car fixed and decided to help out and support a good cause and help out the environment which was awe-inspiring.
Within an hour we had 12 bin bags full of rubbish, one knife found, a pothole on Oldfield Road reported; and that was only four streets covered, what a resounding result! It clearly shows anything is possible and we can turn issues into positive action.
It was nice to meet local residents who were curious to know what was happening in their community and came out to have a chat. One thoughtful resident even went out her way to provide chilled soft drinks for the helpers which we were gratefully appreciated to quench our thirst.
During the litter-pick, it was an eye-sore to see heaps of rubbish and fly-tipping piled up which evidently encouraged rodents to pick at the bags and spill the contents of the waste bags across the streets creating an unpleasant smell, especially with the heat. What’s more, it was disheartening to see a citizen in an electronic wheelchair unable to get past the rubbish and had to reverse, go on the main road to get to the other side, putting his safety at
It’s shockingly shameful that we let it get to this situation. But it doesn’t have to be like this; we can be part of a Balsall Heathen ‘social action’ group and make the change to create a safer, cleaner, healthier community for today and tomorrow.
We only need a small group of committed citizens’ to make this happen. So why not take part in doing your bit to create an inviting area to be proud of.
CleanupUK is a charity whose main focus is on helping those who are most in need, usually in areas of deprivation, to combat the litter problem where they are. Through involvement in this activity, people feel their communities are safer, more welcoming and friendlier. It was discovering the link between litter and deprivation which caused CleanupUK to concentrate on encouraging people living in deprived communities to take action and make those areas better and safer places in which to live.
CleanupUK’s Beautiful Boroughs Project in 12 boroughs in east, north and south London and Beautiful Birmingham Project in Shard End, Tile Cross/Glebe Farm, Bordesley Green, Aston, Balsall Heath/Sparkbrook and Kingstanding is where this work is currently taking place. People involved in the project have stated that this also makes a huge difference to their feeling of community, safety and neighbourliness. For more information, visit their website: