Shameful!

Carlo Biagioni, chaiman of Alnwick Chamber of Trade, points out the problem on the streets of Alnwick.
Carlo Biagioni, chaiman of Alnwick Chamber of Trade, points out the problem on the streets of Alnwick.
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PILES of dog dirt peppering the streets – it’s not only a health risk, it’s not the kind of welcome we want people to have when they visit north Northumberland.

That’s why the Gazette is today launching a campaign to get local people to take pride in their community, following mounting concerns about the amount of poo on our pavements.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been hearing more and more complaints from town and parish councils, business leaders and the general public about standards being allowed to slip when it comes to how clean and tidy our area is.

And with tourist season fast approaching, the timing couldn’t be more important to raise awareness before thousands of visitors descend on our doorsteps.

At the weekend, Alnwick Chamber of Trade (Act) carried out a voluntary street-clean, targeting some of the grottiest parts of the town with sweeping brushes and bin bags. But little could prepare them for the mess they found, prompting chairman Carlo Biagioni to brand the sheer volume of dog excrement left behind as ‘shameful’.

He said: “In certain places, it was unbelievable. On Green Batt and the Roxburgh Place car park there was a substantial amount of dog mess, despite a bin being there. We would urge owners please not to let their dogs foul our streets. We must develop a sense of pride in our town, as we rely heavily on tourism. If it’s left in this state, visitors will go away with a bad impression, but this also affects local residents.”

Mr Biagioni added: “I was in Japan before the tsunami and the streets were immaculately clean, even in a city of 12million people. The pride they had in their community was remarkable. Yet here we are in Alnwick, where some people can’t even pick up after themselves.”

As a result, Act is now contacting schools and churches with a pro-pride message to raise awareness of the wider waste problem in Alnwick.

At the last meeting of Alnwick Town Council, meanwhile, dog fouling on Upper Howick Street was raised and a letter was sent to residents in that area.

Members of the public also contacted the Gazette to complain about dog mess near the war memorial on Denwick Lane and in Stonewell Lane, between Fenkle Street and Morrisons.

County councillor for Alnwick Gordon Castle said: “I have had more complaints about dog fouling than I can remember. There seems to be a growing minority of owners who couldn’t care less and I have seen the evidence on my walks around town.

“We do have a dedicated dog warden, but we need the public to support us. Offenders will be dealt with firmly once they are identified, so I would urge anyone with information to contact the county council.”

But the problems are not restricted to Alnwick – Alnmouth Parish Council hit out after lazy dog owners – believed to be residents, rather than tourists – left the recently-renovated pavement on Northumberland Street in a filthy state.

Only last week, Belford Parish Council heard similar complaints, with witnesses also being encouraged to write to the county council naming offenders.

Gazette editor Paul Larkin said: “As a dog owner myself, I am fully aware we must all take responsibility for the mess our pets leave behind, especially in public areas and particularly where children are likely to be playing. There’s nothing worse than a street full of poo – it really tarnishes the image of the community and sends out completely the wrong message to visitors.

“If we don’t take pride in our area, who will?”

A spokeswoman for Northumberland County Council said residents could ring 0845 6006400 if there were problem areas which needed attention.

She said: “To track down and successfully fine the dog-fouling culprits we need the help of the public – any information that they provide us with will help. For example, the breed of dog and ideally the name and address of the owners, so that we can approach them directly.

“All calls will be treated in the strictest of confidence.”

Over the coming weeks, the Gazette will be highlighting some of the worst-hit areas, encouraging owners to scoop and – with the backing of our readers – exposing those who flout the law to everyone else’s detriment.

If you have experienced a problem with dog fouling, we’d like to hear from you. Call 01665 602234 or email northumberland.gazette@northeast-press.co.uk