Agenda item

A Review of Alley Gating in Hillingdon: Witness Session 2


Ms Helena Webster, the Council's Community Engagement and Town Improvement Manager, advised that the Council had made grant funding available to residents in Hillingdon to secure alleys and mitigate levels of fly tipping and burglary in the area.  At its meeting on 15 February 2023, Members received evidence from residents about their experiences.  Officers had subsequently attended a site visit and identified the need for repairs to just one gate which was being followed up by the team through the new existing gate refurbishment initiative. 


Mr Adam Stitson, the Council's Team Leader for Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) and Environmental Protection, advised that alleygating schemes had reduced levels of certain crimes in the Borough, and complaints about fly tipping and similar issues tended to reduce following the installation of alley gates.  However, the effectiveness of the alley gates depended on the compliance of residents in using them appropriately.  Residents needed to understand how the alley gates should be used and that they needed to be kept locked when not in use and that keys should be kept safe. 


Insofar as hotspots were concerned, Mr Stitson advised that there were no geographical hotspots for alley gates being broken or left unlocked and resulting in ASB.  Residents' buy-in addressed this issue so it was imperative that, to maintain the effectiveness of the scheme, new residents moving into the area needed to have a handover.  The longer a scheme had been installed, the more likely it was that the system would break down as those residents coordinating things like keys locally may have moved away.  The Council's Community Engagement Team was currently looking into this issue to come up with a solution. 


Members were advised that localities based action would be taken by the Council to address reports of ASB in an area and that, if this action was successful, there would potentially be no need to install an alley gating scheme.  Evidence was needed to be able to tackle instances of fly tipping and other crimes and identify the perpetrators.  In these situations, the Council could write to all households in the area but these generic communications tended to have limited effectiveness as they were impersonal and easy to ignore. 


Inspector Dan Lipinski, Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), advised that the police interaction with the Council's ASB team was limited as the team appeared to be largely autonomous.  However, the MPS worked with the ASB and Community Engagement teams when needed and undertook intelligence led patrols and the MPS' Design Out Crime team had significant expertise in identifying preventative measures that could be taken to address crime.  The Democratic Services Manager would circulate the Police Crime Prevention Initiatives Guide to Alley Gating to Members of the Committee. 


Inspector Lipinski had contacted Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) officers to garner their thoughts on the alley gating schemes and had received a number of testimonials.  These SNT officers were wholly supportive of alley gating and noted that the schemes had reduced fly tipping and worked well if the gates were kept locked when not in use. 


Mr Neil O'Connor, the Council's Community Engagement Project Officer, advised that the last six alley gating schemes had been installed to address issues of fly tipping, burglary, drugs and loitering.  Prior to the installation of an alley gating scheme, the Council always contacted the MPS through the relevant Safer Neighbourhood Team to determine whether or not the police had any concerns.


Members queried whether the OWL network could help to identify residents that would be prepared to act as coordinators for the keys or as a point of contact for particular schemes.  Inspector Lipinski chaired the OWL Steering Group for the West Area and noted that there were sometimes issues with things like bank accounts. 


Concern was expressed that, even though there was an alley gating scheme in place, there were times when fly tipping in the alleys still occurred which then fell to the residents to resolve as it was effectively on private land.  It was important that residents kept the gates locked.  Mr Stitson advised that reports to the Council of these instances would be looked at and officers would engage with residents to help them to resolve these issues themselves.  If this was not possible, consideration could be given to the installation of CCTV to gather evidence and identify perpetrators of large-scale fly tipping as they might be linked to other instances in the Borough. 


Whilst the footage from the video doorbells of properties in the vicinity of an alley gate could be used to gather evidence in the event of a crime having taken place, it would not be possible for the Council to install a video doorbell on the gate itself as it would need access to Wi-Fi.  All action taken needed to be risk and intelligence led and Inspector Lipinski confirmed that the police routinely requested footage from neighbours' video doorbells during the cocooning process. 


With regard to fly tipping, Mr Stitson confirmed that officers could take the rubbish back to the depot and examine the content to see if the perpetrator could be identified but that this would not happen in every instance.  There would be times when the waste collection service removed and disposed of the rubbish and it would not be examined. 


Concern was expressed that fly tipping would often occur in the alley ways behind shops.  There were often houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) in the vicinity and sometimes residents did not exhibit neighbourly behaviour resulting in a build-up of fly tipped waste.  Mr Stitson advised that there was a balance between expecting residents to deal with issues themselves and the responsibilities of the Council.  The Council was reliant on residents involved in an alley gating scheme to cooperate and make the system work.  The Council would offer residents information and advice rather than intervening, unless the fly tipping was on a very large scale. 


Inspector Lipinski advised that instances of crime depended on a myriad of factors.  If an area appeared to be looked after and there were no broken windows, etc, it would be less likely to attract things like graffiti.  The installation of alley gates gave the impression that residents in that area were aware of security and potential perpetrators of crime might therefore move onto another area. 


At the start of the process to get an alley gate installed, residents received a lot of support and guidance on the process.  After the gates had been installed, there could be a churn in residents with people moving out, tenants moving in and changes to the scheme.  There was then sometimes very little information available to residents about the existing scheme and support needed to be put in place and residents needed to be advised that they were responsible for the scheme and that a certain behaviour was expected. 


Ms Webster advised that each alley gating scheme covered between 5 and 100+ properties.  All issues reported to the Council about the alley gating schemes would be responded to and residents might be signposted to another service.  A review of the older schemes was being undertaken to establish if any repairs were needed or to identify other issues.  A database of alley gate keyholders across the Borough had been set up and they would be contacted annually to check their contact details and establish whether or not they wanted to continue to act as the keyholder. 


It was recognised that the Council had a list of the schemes that were currently in situ.  Members were advised that, as the work was resident-led, no action had been taken to identify those areas across the Borough that did not currently have a scheme but which would benefit from alley gating.  Although more experienced police officers were aware of the alley gating scheme, the more junior officers would not necessarily be familiar with it.  Where there was an issue, an MPS Design Out Crime Officer (DOCO) could be assigned to make crime prevention recommendations which could include alley gating.  It was suggested that the MPS be provided with alley gating information to hand out and that information about the scheme be circulated to OWL subscribers and at police development days. 



1.    the Police Crime Prevention Initiatives Guide to Alley Gating be circulated to Members of the Committee; and

2.    the discussion be noted. 

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