OVERFLOWING bins, scattered beer bottles, discarded pizza boxes and used fish and chip wrappers are what visitors to a popular South Tyneside park were met with earlier this week.
These shocking litter-filled pictures were taken in South Marine Park, in South Shields, on Monday – the same day it was given a Green Flag award by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy.
It left residents and visitors to the park saying they were appalled by its condition, while council officials urged all those using the spot to “do their bit” to keep the seafront attraction looking at its best.
Gazette reader Liesha Lavida-Beard, 44, and her husband Keith, 45, of West Harton, South Shields, had planned to have a nice afternoon stroll in the park, off Sea Road, but were disgusted when they were met by mountains of rubbish.
Mr Lavida-Beard, a former professional photographer, took these pictures to document their disappointing visit.
His wife said: “On entering the park there was rubbish scattered across pathways and it got more putrifying as we walked on. Every litter bin was jam-packed and overflowing with litter, and the stench was rancid.
“At one point we saw babies’ dirty nappies ripped wide open and strewn across pathways and onto grass, mixed with pizza boxes, chip cartons, cans and cartons everywhere, cigarette boxes and bags scattered, and masses of seagulls swooping down from every direction. If that’s not bad enough, there were empty alcohol bottles strewn across the main green, which can be hazardous in itself, but if a child is playing football in this area and were to fall down it would be disastrous.
“Our afternoon was ruined by seeing such sights. There was seagull mess everywhere, and rats were scurrying through the bushes of the sidewalks.
“Rubbish was stuffed in hedges and flowerbeds and the children’s play area was even worse, with a large bin overflowing with rubbish, rats running through it and seagulls swooping down there too.
“Something needs to be done now in order to prevent an epidemic from breaking out. In my opinion, the park should be shut down until a full clean up is carried out.
Another reader, David Lockney, hit out after he went for a run around the park.
He said: “South Tyneside Council promotes our seafront as a visitor attraction – rightly so – especially at this time of the year and with the weather so beautiful.
“I was therefore appalled when running in the South Marine Park to again be literally running ankle-deep in litter which is strewn everywhere.
“All the litter bins overflowing, and I assume the seagulls have had a great time scavenging.
“Can the council not realise that the parks and seafront are very busy at this time of year – and litter bins are full by the end of each day? If they were emptied daily on an evening, then seagulls can’t empty them overnight.”
The Gazette understands that litter collections in the park are increased to twice a day during busy periods.
A South Tyneside Council spokeswoman said hot weather, the free summer festival events and major investment at the seafront has resulted in record numbers of visitors using the park and surrounding areas this summer.
“This success has placed a huge demand on our cleansing teams, with extra resources put in place to cope with this demand during periods of hot weather and high visitor numbers. We are working to keep on top of it.
“We are committed to keeping our parks and open spaces clean and litter-free. However, we would urge residents and visitors to do their bit too.
“We would appeal for members of the public to help us by putting litter in or next to the bins provided, or taking it home with them if this is not possible.”
The prestigious Green Flag award was presented after the area underwent a multi-million pound revamp in 2008 to restore the Victorian park back to its former glory.