Making a clean sweep on Blackpool’s streets

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Behind the scenes Wyre’s Cleansweep team keep Fleetwood tidy – and safe. Carla George reports

IT’S a common sight in many seaside towns - fish and chip wrappers floating in the breeze, cans of lager rattling down the street and seagulls picking through left over rubbish.

And in Fleetwood, the absence of black, green and blue wheelie bins and the plethora of easy to tear bin liners make the grimy scene even more prevalent.

But on the clear and sunny morning I join Fleetwood’s police community support officer Mike Joyner and Wyre Council’s enforcement officer Clive Willacy for Operation Cleansweep, the streets look remarkably clean.

PCSO Joyner explains: “It’s bin collection day so the bags have been picked up and the street cleaners follow behind to sweep up any stray rubbish so it should look quite good today.

“We do get problems with litter because Fleetwood still uses black bin liners – the council hasn’t issued wheelie bins due to the number of multi-occupancy houses.

“If everyone in the property was given a bin there could three or four blue, black and green bins to fit into a small yard – there is just not enough room.

“But we have a huge problem with people picking through bags looking for food or scrap metal or credit card statements and bank details.

“We end up with rubbish strewn across the streets and then of course you get the age old problem of seagulls picking through the rubbish.”

Established three years ago, Cleansweep goes far deeper than a spring clean of the streets. The operation led, by Wyre council and Lancashire Police, also deals with issue such as fire risk and crime.

It was set up as an answer to the many complaints received by Wyre council from disgruntled locals fed up of dirty streets.

Pointing at a pile of bricks stacked up against a wall, PC Joyner says: “For example this pile of rubble could easily be used for anti-social behaviour.

“We have had a spate of crime recently involving vandals smashing house and car windows with bricks left by workmen.

“As a community team we need to highlight this and ensure anyone carrying work out clears it away overnight because otherwise the locals end up paying a costly price.”

During the inspection, officers recorded 36 instances of graffiti, six instances of dog fouling, several piles of rubble, two beds dumped in Walmsley Street, a protruding manhole cover, broken glass, litter blocking a drain and an accumulation of cigarette ends outside two pubs and a betting shop.

Mr Willacy said: “To be honest, I have been impressed with what I have seen today – our Street Scene team do a good job and there is a clear up virtually every day.

“Now these problems have been highlighted our Cleansweep team will make sure it is all cleared up.”

The week-long purge on grime and crime will also include a variety of police activity with test purchasing for knives and gas products and checks of local takeaways.

But today the emphasis is on Operation Pathway, a sister venture clamping down on unroadworthy vehicles and drivers not wearing seat belts or using mobile phones.

Joining PC Kevin Berry in his patrol car, I soon see why there is a need for the crackdown as more than eight cars are stopped in the first 45 minutes.

“Fleetwood has improved so much in the last few years but we still need these operations to make our community a safer place,” says PC Berry.

“If we can get dangerous cars off the road, we are preventing an accident from happening and keeping our residents protected.

“But things often snowball, so when we pull a car over for having illegally tinted side windows, we then find out they have no insurance or are involved in a crime we are investigating.

“It is also a good way of breaking up the activities of organised crime groups, if we can get them off the road or disrupt their day-to-day activity we can keep an eye on them.”

Unbelievably, 17 drivers are issued fixed penalty notices for wearing no seatbelts, five for no tax, six for no insurance, two for illegal number plates and two for driving a vehicle in a dangerous condition.

Three vehicles are seized and three warning notices sent to the DVLA regarding no tax.

Coun Roger Berry, chairman of Wyre community safety partnership, said: “Every time we hold a Cleansweep in Wyre we are encouraged by some very positive results, and I’m sure the same will be true in Pharos.

“Concentrated initiatives like this give us an opportunity to get this message over to the public, to reassure them and to reiterate that organisations are working together to improve the neighbourhoods they live in.”

A spokesman for Wyre Council said it is looking at ways to use large communal wheelie bins rather than black bin liners.

n Operation Cleansweep is a week-long initiative which starts in the Pharos Ward of Fleetwood on Monday, January 24.