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Flytipping and fighting: Four months on and crime continues at Cobbet Place

In July Peterborough Matters was invited to Cobbet Place near Eastfield Road, to see the remnants of a burned-out caravan and car that had both been left to rot following arson attacks.
The most recent flytipping incident at Cobbet Place, Peterborough. John Baker

After our report the pile of junk and scrap was cleared, a mountain of waste was removed at the entrance to the small square, and progress seemed to have been made.

Fast forward several months, and this week we met with residents who are going through the same process of dealing with waste again. A disgusting pile lies in the centre of the car park; a mess of food and scrap, which has steadily grown over the past couple of months.

It's just part of a litany of anti-social behaviour. The residents know who is doing it. They've seen who is doing it. In some cases they've even got video footage of it. 

But there are a number of problems. One is that no-one seems quite sure who owns the land on which the dumping is occurring, and therefore who is responsible for removing the waste, so the council cannot simply just remove it.

Another is that the police are also stuck, as they may require witnesses to identify themselves if a case goes to court - a risk that some residents determine is not worth taking.

One resident has paid for two CCTV cameras out of his own pocket in the past week even though he only rents the property, although perpetrators have already worked out where to stand to avoid the view. His work is nearby, he has a good relationship with the estate agents with whom he rents, and he likes most of his neighbours, so feels he should not have to move.


thumbnail_IMG_3106Residents have placed CCTV cameras themselves. Photo: John Baker

He said: "These are the sort of people you don't want to mess around with. We've seen drug dealing, anti-social behaviour, fighting, you name it. People are constantly passing through. Even a few weeks ago we saw someone try and hit someone else with a car.

"We're stuck in the middle of it all, with regards to the flytipping - I'm not even sure the council has the power to fine them, because it's private land."

Another said: "It's not worth it for the hassle going forward. We've caught them stealing out of vans and loading up cars with stuff out of the vans. We went out and confronted them and they just laughed at us.

"We had a girl who used to live nearby who used to play music at all hours of the day, but she moved out. A lot of people have held house parties here during lockdown. It's been like an episode of Brookside.

"One guy moved in with his partner and child, a lovely family. They were gone the moment six month rental term was up. The flytipping there is disgusting and we'll have rats back again soon, because it's all food waste. And the thing is that these people know that others will have to clear it up again - and then it will just start over."

"A lot of us are on tablets and have mental health issues because of everything that is going on."

The residents are keen to say that the vast majority of people in this area are friendly and law-respecting. It's a diverse and interesting community which gets on well. There are just a few people responsible, who are blighting it with signs of aggression.

Some of the bins are locked up so that they cannot be moved. There are small patches of graffiti, some of which have links to Polish Football Ultras.

Two councillors for the ward, Dr Shabina Qayyum and Sam Hemraj, are both part of a Whatsapp group set up to deal with the issue.

Dr Qayyum said: "I can give you reassurance that we are responding to the messages out of hours and on weekends above and beyond our call of duty despite our very busy professional lives too.

"In view of the other ASB matters I have been in touch with environmental health who have asked the residents to log in ANY incident the residents come across. 

"We are all working really hard - however, with the current state of affairs and the residents saying they don’t wish to testify, it comes across as extremely challenging to apply enforcement of no one wants to testify. In truth, the system could be much better and easier and perhaps if it was, and perpetrators were caught, we wouldn’t be in this predicament.

"In view of lockdown it is difficult to arrange another multi agency meeting but we have an average turnover time of two hours and less, to responding to messages."

At least three people associated with the area have been to court, and a spokesperson for Cambridgeshire Constabulary said: "We have received three reports in the last month about incidents in Cobbet Place, Peterborough.

"We regularly conduct patrols in the area and work with partners, including the local authority, about areas of concern.

"We would encourage people to report crime to us so that we can respond appropriately and build an accurate intelligence picture of what is happening in the area. This can be done on our website or by calling 101 – if a crime is in progress always dial 999. Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111 or online."