04 Jul 2022

'It's disheartening' Portlaoise crashes from second to 26th in IBAL litter survey

'It's disheartening' Portlaoise crashes from second to 26th in IBAL litter survey

Portlaoise Main Street

Portlaoise may appear clean and full of summer floral displays, but it has crashed from first to 26th in the national IBAL Litter Survey.

Two heavily littered sites, one of them owned by Laois County Council, have brought down the town's mark, in spite of the continued efforts by Portlaoise Tidy Towns.

Chairperson Gerry Browne called the result "disheartening" but says otherwise the town "looks magnificent".

The latest survey by Irish Business Against Litter shows that Portlaoise, which won national 2nd place last time out and 1st last September, has tumbled to 26th. However it is still deemed ‘clean’.

The An Taisce report for Portlaoise stated:

"A town with six top ranking sites would typically rank quite highly but the presence of a litter blackspot and a heavily littered site in Portlaoise brings down the overall ranking.  These sites – the derelict site on Harpur’s Lane and the recessed entrance to a ghost estate beside Mountain View Square - didn’t get into this state overnight and will require attention to prevent further deterioration.  Top ranking sites included Gandon Court Shopping Centre, The Main Street and the Bring Centre in car park adjacent to the Grape & Bean."

The first site is a derelict cottage which has become a target for dumpers, while the second, Hepburn Court, is a former private housing estate that was destroyed by fires, blocked up and force bought and is to be developed into a new council housing estate, to end decades of anti-social behaviour including dumping.

The dumping at both is on an "industrial scale", Gerry Browne said.

"That sort of dumping is on an industrial scale and it has to be cleaned in an industrial scale too. I am sure the people living down there aren't happy with it either. It's disappointing to go from first to 26th but it's slightly out of our hands. The town looks fantastic. Those are bad areas but generally anyone coming into Portlaoise is saying it looks fabulous. 

He does not blame Laois County Council for the dumping on what is their land at Hepburn Court.

"The council didn't dump, the blame should be laid at the doors of people who are firing stuff out there, that's the scandal. We get fantastic support from Laois County Council. It has been cleaned up before and it costs a fortune each time."

He remains positive for Portlaoise to bounce back, particularly.

"We are still in the top 26. We have to stay positive. We will keep doing what we are doing and maybe in the next report we can bounce back," he said.

Below: the rankings for 40 Irish towns.

The IBAL national study reveals PPE litter is on the decrease, but the prevalence of coffee cups on our streets warrants action such as a levy, says IBAL. 2022 marks the 20th year of the IBAL litter surveys.

Elsewhere in the Midlands, Athlone rose to 4th spot in the ranking of 40 towns and cities, with Mullingar also improving, to 16th position. 

Two-thirds of the 40 towns and cities surveyed were found to be clean, among them Naas, which retained its position atop the rankings, ahead of Letterkenny and Cavan.

Overall litter levels showed a decrease on last year, with a dramatic fall of 50% in the number of sites within towns deemed to be ‘litter blackspots’.

The survey suggests that Ireland is seeing a return to normality post-Covid, with less PPE litter and less alcohol consumption outdoors, litter levels have fallen. 

The land at Hepburn Court and behind it is to become a new social housing estate with 54 homes, with the council hoping this eliminates the dumping problem. That plan recently concluded its public consultation phase.

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