Chairman of Athlone Tidy Towns, John Butler, has reacted angrily to Athlone’s poor performance in the latest Irish Businesses Against Litter (IBAL ) rankings, saying the report is a “cynical exercise” which fails to take into account the work done by Tidy Towns over the summer months.
The report published this week places Athlone 48th out of 53 towns surveyed in terms of litter levels, with an overall ‘littered’ status.
Several of the town’s approach roads and housing estates are regarded as ‘moderately littered’, while one area, the car park at the Tack Room, is described as having a “serious litter problem” with alcohol and food-related litter. Just two locations, Castle Street and Main Street, are ‘clean to European norms’, according to the report, which describes Athlone’s overall result as “disappointing”.
However, Mr Butler pointed out that the IBAL judges visited Athlone in February before the Tidy Towns committee began its summer clean-up, and says not publishing the report for six months is misleading.
“It is totally wrong and arrogant of the people producing the report. The fact that the report was done in February but doesn’t come out until August means it is not a fair reflection. The visit took place in February, but Tidy Towns personnel were not in place until March.
“Currently there is no litter on any approach roads within a two mile radius of Athlone. We can only have personnel in place from March to September, and can only work with the funding we receive, but more is necessary to ensure improvement,” said Mr Butler.
He added that the IBAL report shows a lack of geographical knowledge of the town. “The system is not good - there is no geographical understanding of the town. ‘Main Street’ is referred to in the report - I think this is Church Street. They don’t identify areas under Roscommon or Westmeath County Councils or Athlone Town Council.
“There has been a major effort, and we have identified every litter blackspot and have removed litter. Any litter around is only a couple of days old. We look forward to getting funding next year and to carry on the development of the cleanliness and landscaping of Athlone.”
In the last three successive IBAL reports, Athlone has improved its ranking from being a ‘litter blackspot’ in June 2009 to being ‘seriously littered’ in January 2010 and now ‘littered’ in this latest report.
Cllr Alan Shaw, who is a member of the Tidy Towns committee, believes the results highlight the need for year-round investment in litter control.
“The recent information flyer published by the Athlone Tidy Towns, ‘Litter and the Law’ was distributed to over 5,000 homes throughout Athlone in recent weeks. This document sets out the challenges for every individual to know and understand the meaning of litter, how to control it and what your responsibilities are under the law.
“Athlone Town Council already invests significant funding in the Tidy Towns, however we need to get on top of the litter problem once and for all as part of a permanent 12-month solution.
“It is clear from this report that Athlone continues to be haunted by litter problems and the behaviour of the wider public will not change unless awareness levels continue to be heightened right throughout the year. We can do better!”