THE problem of chewing gum discarded on pavements is still blighting the town centre – more than two years after Swindon Council took part in a campaign to tackle the issue.
In August 2010, the council was one of 12 which took part in a campaign, run by the Chewing Gum Action Group, which saw posters placed around the town warning that those caught dropping gum could be handed £80 fixed penalty notices for first offences, leading to a maximum fine of £2,500 after summary conviction.
An enforcement team also targeted chewers directly, informing them of litter powers, and handing out fixed penalty notices to any person found littering.
However, Coun Derique Montaut, former Labour group leader, who represented the town centre area for many years, said the initiative had not had lasting impact, with almost every paving stone in the town centre now spotted with discarded gum. He is calling for more concerted action, especially as the unsightly gum is damaging Swindon’s chances of attracting employers.
“It hasn’t worked for a start. The fact we have tried something and there was resources put into it and it hasn’t worked is clearly an indication of the kind of society we’re now living in – a careless society,” he said.
“It’s blighted the town and the first thing that came to mind walking around the town centre in recent times is the amount of spots. Chewing gum sticks on my shoes which has inevitably gone into the car. And it gives our town a very bad name.”
Coun Montaut said the council and Forward Swindon, the town centre regeneration firm, and others needed to work together to come up with a joint programme including education, enhanced cleaning and enforcement. He said gum manufacturers and shops also had some responsibility for cleaning up gum.
Coun Montaut also suggested that CCTV cameras could be fitted with loudspeakers to call out to those seen dropping gum to embarass them and ask them to bin it.
Coun Vera Tomlinson, cabinet member for a safer and stronger borough, said the council had issued 72 fixed penalty notices for littering during 2012 but expected this to increase as the council has taken on an enforcement officer focusing on the town centre.
She said: “Most law-abiding people of Swindon take pride in their town centre but a certain few don’t. “Spitting or throwing chewing gum on to the pavements is a disgusting and deplorable habit as wherever people are in the centre, they’re never more than 10 metres from the nearest bin.
“These perpetrators show little regard for making a visit by others to the town centre a pleasurable experience, which leaves us no choice other than to fine them and if that’s what it takes then so be it.
“We’ve spent around £12m in the last few years on improvements to the centre so why should we allow these people to spoil it? We’ve recently taken on an officer to work full time on enforcement in the town centre and as the fixed penalty fine is £80, maybe that will impress upon people that putting their discarded gum in the bin is the best and right thing to do.”