Monday, 25 April 2011


I had an unfortunate encounter with the binmen this morning. In the past, I’d been full of nothing but praise for the council’s refuse collection service, especially after all the plaudits they deservedly received for collecting the rubbish so successfully in poor weather conditions during the winter. However, this morning’s incident has led me to complain to Thanet Council about the rude and impersonal conduct of their binmen. Using TDC's online complaints service, here’s what I said:

Due to an innocent error on my part, I forgot to put the bins out on Sunday night, and only remembered at 6:30 in the morning when I heard the rubbish van rumbling down the far end of my road.

Since I thought I still had time to put the bins out, I quickly ran downstairs and bagged everything up. When I got to my front door, I noticed that the rubbish van was now parked right outside my house. The binmen only appeared to be doing the opposite side of the road, rolling all the wheelie bins up to the van, and all the rubbish bags had already been collected on my side of the road.

One of the binmen was only a stone’s throw away from me, so I waved at him and he did notice me, but he deliberately ignored the fact that I had bin bags in my hands. I watched them for a brief while, until the rubbish van drove along further down the road, so I thought I'd better take matters into my own hands.

I carried the bin bags and walked down the road towards the rubbish van and took them towards the binman who was wheeling the bins (the one who had ignored me) and he said, ‘I’m not allowed to put rubbish in the van, I just wheel the bins’ (or implied words to that effect). In any case, his demeanour suggested to me that he wasn’t allowed to take my rubbish, or that I was too late.

So I spoke to the other binman on duty, and he sneered at me and said sarcastically ‘Where were you at six o’clock in the morning? We’re not supposed to take rubbish if you’re too late’ (once again, this is paraphrasing, I can’t remember the exact exchange word-for-word).

But my point is, both of them seemed very unhelpful and unwilling to make an exception to take my rubbish bags, and both binmen came across like ignorant jobsworths, until one of them said, ‘Go on then, put it in yourself.’ So in the end, I had to throw my rubbish bags in the back of the rubbish van myself, which probably flouts all those beloved ‘health and safety regs’ under the sun, but they didn’t seem to care about that.

They were downright rude, and I couldn’t believe how unmannerly and indifferent your binmen were. I thought I’d complain because the fact that they knowingly ignored the fact that I had bin bags, even after I’d waved at them, shows an uncouth streak which I don’t expect of those running a public service.

If your binmen had been only a little bit more helpful, I could’ve let it go, but I was surprised by their lack of candour. I am, however, willing to accept my share of the blame. After all, I did forget it was bin day, but it was an innocent mistake.

However, the very least I expect of binmen is to be courteous and not the brash and uncongenial chaps I encountered.

I’m aware that they did have jobs to do, so they can hardly go backtracking for rubbish, but I had made a concerted effort to make up for my forgetfulness by signalling my presence and taking my rubbish bags directly to them. I didn’t expect to have to do their job for them, by throwing the bags in myself! If you think about it, it’s the equivalent of politely asking a shopkeeper to show you where a product is and being rudely refused point blank.

I suggest you make sure that your binmen act with a bit more tact and at least be a bit more civil and cooperative when they encounter members of the public next time – after all, they are the face of public services on the ground.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably thinking I’m nit-picking. So what if I forgot to put the bins out, right? If they didn’t want to collect my bin bags, then that’s just hard cheese, eh? If you snooze, you lose. But that’s not the point. Council tax money goes towards paying the salaries of those refuse collectors so I’m entitled to be a bit disappointed and unimpressed by this experience. As good a job as our binmen clearly do, good manners certainly wouldn’t go a miss, don't you agree?

Wednesday, 6 April 2011


Image from 

Back in February, Freshwater submitted their plans to build a new Tesco superstore next to Arlington House, much to the annoyance - I imagine - of their Residents Association who have been quite vocal in their opposition to it. However, I've come across some information which may be of some comfort to them. In fact, it may even eliminate some of their concerns.

In a podcast for Little Atoms on December 5th 2010 (download it here), the esteemed if slightly controversial British architect Will Alsop OBE spoke at length about the subject of urban renaissance and said some very interesting things which may have some relevance to the people of Arlington House.

"I think Tescos are rather evil actually. I really mean it - they make all sorts of promises to all sorts of towns, not just to build shops, of course, that's their prime interest, but they'll do things like build a new police station, a new school, and they never do it.

"I've come to the conclusion that the reason they don't do it is all they're doing is stringing out this thing for a long period of time, to stop Asda going there, or somebody else. West Bromwich is one example of that, where nothing's been delivered."

Could Will Alsop's comments imply that despite the recent planning application we may not actually see a Tesco store being built after all? Is this whole planning application thing by Freshwater - as Mr. Alsop suggests - a calculated ruse done on behalf of Tesco to ward off the superstore's competitors? I mean, let's face it, there are striking parallels between what Will Alsop has said and what the people of Arlington House have been promised.

After all, Thanet Council's press release makes it clear that there will be improvements to Arlington House "including new windows, repairing and treating concrete panels, new lighting and a roof canopy on top of the building." In addition to this, the planning application also promises that they may build "new shops, cafes, restaurants or bars, with a hotel above" in Arlington Square and they may even create a "community facility such as a doctor's surgery."

So, will these promises by Freshwater - if they are, indeed, working on behalf of Tesco - actually bear fruit? Will their grand artistic impression of Arlington House actually become a reality? Needless to say, I'm sure many residents of Arlington House would rather see the whole project shelved but judging by what Will Alsop has said - a much-lauded architect with an OBE, remember - it may not actually see the light of day. Maybe we shouldn't worry about it too much. Let's just wait and see what happens.