Survey warns city centre losing litter battle

Rubbish is swept from the Royal Mile. Picture: Michael Hughes
Rubbish is swept from the Royal Mile. Picture: Michael Hughes
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EDINBURGH is losing its battle against city centre grime while other districts across the Capital emerge almost spotless, a new study has found.

Filthy streets in the heart of the city have once again failed to meet national standards with the cleanliness gulf between tidy neighbourhoods and central Edinburgh widening.

A recent cleanliness survey by Keep Scotland Beautiful (KSB) scored the city centre at 66 points – the lowest ranking of all Edinburgh districts and more than ten points below the west, south, and south-west.

Of the 86 streets inspected – including some in Leith – seven failed to meet the acceptable standard of cleanliness.

Litter hotspots include: Calton Road and Antigua Street for cigarette ends; Coates Place for recycling bin spillages; and overflowing trade waste at North Clyde Lane and Thistle Street Lane.

The city centre has not passed a single KSB cleanliness survey since it began in 2011. Heritage bosses blame the high volume of pubs and exceptional footfall it attracts.

Adam Wilkinson, director of Edinburgh World Heritage, said: “Around 3.67 million staying visitors per year inevitably creates a much greater challenge for street cleanliness than other areas of the city. It is interesting to see from surveys that visitors themselves still rate the city fairly highly in terms of cleanliness.”

But the results come amid a huge drive to boost the city’s image as a clean and tidy European capital.

A 70-strong army of litter-pickers has been recruited throughout festival season while a new collection timetable for trade waste has been introduced to Rose Street, High Street and Leith Walk in a bid to remove bins from public view.

Andy Neal, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, which represents more than 600 city centre businesses, said: “A road in leafy Morningside is a lot easier to keep clean than streets that have the second highest tourist numbers outside London.”

But business expert Graham Birse, director of the Edinburgh Institute at Edinburgh Napier University, called for a robust attitude.

He said: “We should take a vigorous approach. Enforcement legislation exists, including on-the-spot fines, but I have never heard of anyone who has been prosecuted.

“At festival time, the population in the city centre virtually doubles and it puts added pressure on services but if people just took more care that pressure wouldn’t be there.”

But environment leader Cllr Lesley Hinds insisted that investment and “co-ordinated efforts” were beginning to “take effect”.

“Summer is a particularly busy time when we welcome thousands of people to enjoy the Capital but there is no doubt this has an impact on our surroundings,” she said. “That’s why we’ve invested in more than 70 extra temporary staff to keep the streets clean over this period. However, it’s essential that the public and businesses also play their part by disposing of their waste responsibly.”

john.connell@edinburghnews.com