Nine days on, Belfast streets are given Twelfth clean-up they badly needed
Just days ago retailers and tourists had been complaining about the filthy state of Belfast's main shopping thoroughfare which had been left blackened, sticky and strewn with litter after the Twelfth celebrations.
The streets had become a talking point for visitors and shoppers after the unbroken spell of hot weather left the post-Twelfth pavements sticky with melted gum and stained with dirt.
But yesterday – nine days after tens of thousands of people had enjoyed the annual Orange parade – Belfast City Council workers finally took to the streets around Royal Avenue for a major clean-up operation. Prolonged temperatures in the high 20s and 17 days without rain had also taken their toll on the grimy streets.
After several hours of brushing and power-hosing the pavements in front of Belfast City Hall had been restored to their usual shade of silver.
Chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, Glyn Roberts, welcomed the spruced-up appearance of the streets.
He had been one of those who had expressed concerns about the negative image being portrayed by the dirt. The week-long delay had been blamed on confusion over who was responsible for the operation – the Department for Social Development (DSD) or Belfast City Council. It had also been claimed that the recent loyalist riots in north and east Belfast had put a strain on resources.
Last Tuesday, DSD – which manages the shopping area along Royal Avenue and Donegall Place – requested that Belfast City Council carry out a deep clean.
However, the council said it would be waiting until yesterday when footfall was at a minimum to undertake the mammoth chore.
A spokesperson for Belfast City Council said last week that although it is not a legal requirement for the local authority to carry out street washing, there is an agreement in place with DSD that it will wash the new natural stone pavements in the city centre, for payment, throughout the year. Mr Roberts (below) said: "I am very pleased and delighted that they have taken this action.
"It's a fantastic opportunity with so many tourists to showcase the beauty of Belfast city centre. It is important for visitors to see the city centre attractive."
He has also called for other towns and city centres to follow suit as tourists continue to visit Northern Ireland over the summer months.
"I hope we can ensure all our towns and city centres can look their very best," he said.
Commenting on the cleaning delay, Mr Roberts said: "I think generally there needs to be far greater partnership between DSD, the Department of the Environment and local councils, who all have responsibility for town centres."