The need to maintain social distancing has reduced the number of visitors who can use the 11 household waste recycling sites at any one time.
This has led to significant congestion and queuing at some – and at times the police have advised closure of sites for road safety reasons.
In an attempt to reduce the problem, the plan is to run a booking system for an initial six months at the Bognor Regis, Crawley, Horsham, Littlehampton and Shoreham sites.
The idea was discussed by a county council scrutiny committee today (Wednesday March 3) where most councillors were happy with what was being suggested.
The final decision will be made by Deborah Urquhart, cabinet member for environment.
The committee asked her to add Worthing to the list of sites involved in the trial.
Steve Read, director of environment, told the meeting that the council wanted to use an off-the-shelf solution from a company called BookingLab, describing it as ‘affordable’ and ‘well proven’.
The system would allow people to book a visit between one and 14 days in advance – or even cancel it – with a set number of slots allocated per half hour.
While booking should be up and running in the week commencing March 15, the system will not go live until March 29.
Mr Read said: “What we’re trying to do here is manage high demand.
“We’re trying to encourage people to think about what they’re bringing and come once in a week with a good load rather than – as we often see at the moment – people coming with relatively light loads many times over the course of the week.”
He assured members that people would not be ‘chased to leave’ before they were finished on the sites.
As for the cost of the scheme, the committee was told it would cost £22,700 to set up and run up to April, and £13,200pa thereafter.
Not everyone, though, likes online booking and it was estimated that two extra call centre staff would be needed to deal with phone bookings – costing around £24,000 in 2021/22.
As for extending the opening hours across the board, seven days a week, Mr Read said that would cost around £1.35m.
He added: “Finding £1.35m would be great but, frankly, we have other priorities.”
The idea of a booking system has brought a mixed reaction from the public.
When asked by Brian Quinn (Lab, Broadfield) why no consultation had been held into the proposals, the answer was simply that there was not enough time.
Chairman Andrew Barrett-Miles said: “You could say that the trial is a practical consultation.”