MASSIVE reductions in road sweeping have raised fears that Dartmouth could become a litter zone.

Last week's announcement of a new recycling programme for Dartmouth obscured the news that the district is facing huge cuts in road sweeping which will hit Townstal and the Dartmouth area villages hardest.

The district council has justified the cuts by saying South Hams streets are so clean sweepers are left with nothing to do.

It says the £200,000 cuts won't reduce the cleanliness of the streets, but residents of villages and towns feel their environment is being compromised and the road sweepers agree.

One sweeper in the area, who did not wish to be named, said: 'The Townstal sweeper is hard pressed to cover the area in five days. He really needs ten. It would be a miracle if he finished it in two days. The standard of service is bound to drop.

'We were concerned about our jobs but have been assured no redundancies will be made. I presume some of us will be moving on to recycling duties.'

The villages will now be swept fortnightly instead of weekly with the team of eight sweepers reduced to four.

Townstal's cover will drop from five days to two and Kingswear will drop from six days to two-and-a-half. The evening service in the summer from 5 to 7pm is also being scrapped and the district's main towns will not be swept on a Sunday during the winter months from November to March or in the evening.

The council's executive agreed to alter the rounds after learning some roads were cleaned so frequently there often wasn't any rubbish for sweepers to collect.

Environment spokesman Cllr Bryan Carson said: 'We live in a tourism area and cleanliness is extremely important. However it is daft to send people out to clean streets that are not dirty.

'We are confident we can revise the cleaning rounds without it having a noticeable impact.'

South Hams Council said that it had assured worried parishes that litter hotspots such as the road to Kingswear ferry and clean up operations after special events were not included in the changes.

Barry Morris, chairman of Stoke Fleming


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at Dartmouth's Guildhall at the end of their tour.

The judges will be surveying floral displays and beds, overall appearance of gardens both private and public and the cleanliness of the town.

In the mid 1980s Dartmouth won the All England competition and this is the second time the town has reached the national finals.

Cllr Melvyn Stone, district councillor for Dartmouth and Kingswear, said: 'If Dartmouth wins this award it will be blooming marvellous.

'We're all working together to pull out all the stops to make the town look its absolute best for when the judges arrive.'

Other towns competing for the award are Frinton-on-Sea, Essex; Rye, Sussex; Swanland, Yorkshire; Alness, Scotland; Wimbourne Minster, Dorset.