Belfast Telegraph

Street cleaning needs to be ramped up... the town will never have a better chance to shine

By Yvette Shapiro

The installation of Newcastle's new paving, completed around the summer of 2008, was a glorious sight to behold - worth every ratepayer-funded penny of the estimated £5.5m cost.

Footpaths were widened and dressed with 12,000 square metres of pale, cool granite. Alongside the fabulous new promenade, Newcastle had never looked better.

Until people actually started walking on the paving with their grubby shoes, dribbling soft drinks, spilling coffee, fumbling with pastie suppers, dropping ice-creams, spitting chewing gum, wheeling prams and exercising dogs.

As the crowds flocked, the town looked dirtier by the day. It seemed to be a surprise to council officials that pale granite showed the stain of every substance that made contact with it. And, no, the rain that sweeps down off the Mournes didn't wash it clean.

Some shopkeepers and cafe-owners tried to clean patches of grubby ground outside their premises, but they were merely Canutes trying to hold back a tide of grime. And since these traders already pay rates some regard as exorbitant, why should they have to do the council's job?

The soon-to-be dissolved Down District Council took its time to respond, but respond it has. Power-hosing is more frequent - but still not frequent enough. The litter bins are emptied more often and enforcement officers are numerous and fearless, often in the face of hostility and threats.

People can be lazy, thoughtless dirtbirds. The streets would be a lot cleaner if visitors put their food and drink into their mouths, or into bins, instead of dumping it at their backsides.

But the new super council - Newry, Mourne and Down - needs to ramp up its cleaning programme, now more than ever. The eyes of the sporting world will be on Royal County Down in May and Newcastle will never have a better chance to shine. Let's make sure that multi-million pound pavement is so clean you could lick your ice-cream off it.

Newcastle resident Yvette Shapiro is producer and presenter of The Issue, UTV, Thursdays, 11.10pm

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