By Amy Licence / Environment / / 0 Comments

One issue is particularly annoying local residents in Wincheap and Thanington in the early weeks of 2019. With the start of the new term, parents are back on the school run, hurrying along our pavements as the winter evenings draw in. Certain spots along our streets, especially Hop Garden Way in Wincheap, are frequently used as a safer alternative to the busy main road, running like an artery through the area, connecting homes and school, shops and work. Yet the experience has become an increasingly unpleasant one, with incidents of dog poo spread across both sides of the path.  

Local resident Erika Repase, who walks her children along the route daily, was recently so appalled that she resorted to counting and photographing the extent of the problem. In one hundred-yard stretch alone, she found eighteen examples of dog poo, prompting her to appeal to residents on social media sites for greater responsibility among pet owners. Her posts elicited widespread condemnation of the problem, especially among those who always took care to clean up after their dogs, and resented the way that the behaviour of a minority were giving owners a bad name. 

This is not a new problem. Last year, Wincheap parent Ruth French found the same intolerable situation along Hollow Lane. This prompted a directive for children at Wincheap school to produce posters, which were laminated and displayed along the route. However, it seems that the situation has not improved. It is difficult not to attribute the worsening of the situation to the removal of the two special red waste bins previously situated on the corner of Hollow Lane and Hollow Mede, and along Hop Garden Way. These were well used, so much so that they were frequently in need of emptying and did attract other rubbish, but at least they were there. Not only did they provide an essential service, they also acted as a reminder to dog owners about expected standards. Red and highly visible, they additionally displayed warnings about fines for irresponsible owners. Since their removal, more than a year ago, Wincheap’s streets have become dirtier and more dangerous. 

Listening to local residents this afternoon, Labour’s prospective Council candidate, Paul Todd, expressed his concern about the situation. “It’s always been an issue,” he explained, having contacted the Council in former years to express his annoyance, “but the recent removal of the bins has certainly impacted the school run.” A parent and Governor of Wincheap School, Mr Todd takes very seriously the dangers this situation poses to children’s health. “The link between dog waste and serious illness is well-known and unless the problem is remedied in some way, it is only a matter of time before one of our children falls ill.”  

Given that dog poo can prove toxic to our lawns, causing discolouration and burns, it comes as no surprise that contact with it can lead to stomach cramps, diarrhoea and kidney disorders in humans. A single gram of the stuff contains 23 million fecal bacteria, which we do not want our children ingesting from contact with their shoes, buggies, scooters or fingers, as a result of trips and falls. Running for election to Canterbury’s Council this May, Paul Todd intends to put the health of our pedestrians on the agenda and press for the reinstatement of the red waste bins at the very least. “It’s becoming critical,” he stated today, “and the local Labour party will take action.” 

 

Labour campaigners braved the drizzle this afternoon outside Wincheap Primary School, to raise support for an issue close to locals’ hearts. In July 2017, Wincheap Park received a long-overdue re-vamp, transforming it into a venue that has become very popular with children and parents alike. Walk past it on a sunny day after school closing time and the numbers speak for themselves. Until, that is, a child requires a trip to the toilet. The former toilet block on the site served the main road for a number of years, until recent problems with drug use closed it permanently, resulting in the sale of the site. Currently, children either opt to return home, which is sometimes a considerable walk, or to go behind the bushes. Labour’s campaign, to encourage the Council to “spend a penny” was well-received by parents at the school gates, who recognise the need for the toilets’ return.

Campaign leader Paul Todd understands the difficulties facing parents due to the lack of facilities. “Being a father of four children,” said Mr Todd, “all of whom attended Wincheap Primary and made good use of the park over the years, the closure of the toilets means that this wonderful resource is being under-utilised. I’m passionate about putting it back on the Council’s agenda.”

While the site is currently in private hands, the building stands vacant, unkempt and over-grown. If the existing toilets could not be returned to Council ownership, space exists for an alternative block, or even a single toilet, within the park boundaries, subject to its opening hours. Unmanned toilets have been a success at Toddlers’ Cove and in the Dane John Gardens, where ultraviolet lights have addressed the issue of drug use. While the Council may consider Wincheap’s park to be on a smaller scale, of interest only to locals, the issue is a matter of quite some importance for parents, and the nature of the busy A28 means the park also attracts passers-by. Labour campaigners will be submitting their arguments, and the petition, to the Council in the coming weeks