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Monday, 30 September, 2002, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
Revealed: England's dirty, smelly streets
Overflowing litter bin
The study found litter bins are frequently left to overflow
England's public spaces are smelly, litter-strewn eyesores covered in dog faeces, gum and broken glass.

That is the verdict of a new study conducted by ENCAMS, a government-funded environmental charity behind the Keep Britain Tidy campaign.

It found playgrounds were blighted by dog faeces and broken glass; litter bins were left to overflow; pavements were damaged and overgrown with weeds; landscaping was neglected and street lamps and signs needed new paint.

But the survey concludes that improvements could be made at relatively little extra cost.

A litter-strewn street
London has a particular problem with litter

Alan Woods, chief executive of ENCAMS (Environmental Campaigns), said: "Nobody wants to live in a dirty neighbourhood, not least because it sends out the message that no one cares and once you go down that road, you'll have higher crime rates before you know it.

"But given some commonsense and better planning, a lot of these difficulties could be overcome in double quick time."

The study also found that the problem of toilet odour was greatest in the West Midlands, South East and North East England.

It showed London had a particular problem with the condition of litter bins and pavements nationwide were also blocked by everything from cafe tables to builders' rubble, causing a major headache for wheelchair users and parents pushing prams.

'Do our bit'

ENCAMS wants councils to think about how and when they clean up.

With many roads blocked by parked cars, they also believe it is a waste of time sending street sweepers out at busy times armed with just a litter picker.

Part of the problem, according to ENCAMS, has been that councils have had no effective way of measuring how well they are doing.

Tidiness ratings
South East:
Good: Graffiti
South West:
Good: Fly-tipping
West Midlands:
Unsatisfactory: Public signs
East Midlands:
Poor: Pavement obstructions
East England:
Satisfactory: Public toilets
Yorkshire and Humberside:
Good: Emptying bins
North West:
Good: Clearing leaves
North East:
Poor: Public toilets

The group is now calling on local authorities to use the survey as a model to test their performance.

Mr Woods added: "On the whole, councils work hard but they can be stuck in their ways sometimes and fail to realise that people in inner city housing estates can have different needs to those living in the suburbs.

"But they're not a million miles off the mark and given a bit more attention to detail, their performance would improve hugely."

He stressed the public should play their part too.

"Problems like litter aren't caused by councils - they are caused by people who are too lazy to use a bin.

"Living in a clean, safe area is everyone's right but it will only be achieved if we do our bit too."

As a result of the survey, the government has created a new Performance Indicator so that every council taxpayer knows whether their local authority is up to scratch when it comes to cleaning their patch.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Tom Heap
"The state of our streets is now a political issue"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Dirty Britain
Are we becoming dirtier as a nation?
See also:

30 Sep 02 | England
21 Sep 02 | UK
30 Nov 01 | England
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