Perceived poor street cleanliness in Northampton is still putting people off visiting the town centre, Chronicle and Echo readers say, after learning the town has been hit by a large drop in footfall.
That was the common thread running through the comments section of the Chron's story yesterday - which revealed the latest three-month town centre footfall figures to be down 700,000 people on last year.
Anne Mason's comment on Facebook gained the most 'likes'.
"I visited town yesterday," she said. "[I paid] £4 to park, it was dirty and smelly, not very pleasurable.
"The town had died long before Rushden Lakes opened. It is such a pleasure to go to the Lakes [it has] so much more to offer."
The comment got the backing of 135 people.
While a large proportion of the 400 commenters said they liked the free parking facilities, cleanliness and offering at Rushden Lakes - others said Northampton had been 'neglected' for a number of years.
Terry Hopewell added: "The town centre has been neglected for numerous decades. It's not a pleasant place to go to. You can't blame Rushden Lakes for this.
"I'm afraid the only way to improve the town centre now is to knock it down and start again. It's in desperate need of millions of pounds of investment. It's way behind the standards of surrounding areas, e.g. Leicester, Rushden Lakes and Milton Keynes."
Emma Heath, who runs @Nohorubbish Twitter page, told the Chron: "I've just spent two weeks in France and it all seemed so much cleaner. I haven't ventured into the town centre since I've been back but the whole town is filthy. It's one of the first things I noticed."
One of her shorter-term quick fixes to improving the town centre's appearance is to place more bins outside convenience shops to target the takeaway market.
"I'd like to see proper recycling bins on the main shopping streets, too," she said.
"Until the council wakes up to people's shopping habits and people stop buying food and drink on-the-go then this town will continue to be dirty.
"There's too much reliance on takeaway food and there are too many people buying single-use drink bottles. Make lunch at home and refill your bottles. It's cheaper in the long run too."
In July last year, this newspaper received 1,300 responses to our big town centre survey, which was handed into the borough council.
Mainly readers wanted to see the town centre made cleaner: 142 responses – more than a tenth – said the one thing they would do to improve the town would be to give it a good tidy.
Mark Mullen, Northampton town centre BID operations manager said: “We acknowledge the comments following the article about footfall figures in Northampton town centre and are already working with partners on projects to address some of the main concerns – these are due to begin in the next few months and include improvements to anti-social behaviour reporting processes and opportunities for businesses to influence parking decisions.
"The BID has also offered to provide additional services to support Northampton Borough Council’s statutory services, like we have done in the past, by funding regular deep cleans, chewing gum removal schemes and other cleanliness projects.”
A spokesman from Northampton Borough Council said: “Last year, a three-month deep clean across the town saw 5,400 fly tips cleared and more than 200 tonnes of litter and detritus swept up. Ongoing in the town centre, street cleansing operations take place 8am to 8pm, seven days a week. This includes chewing gum removal, street washing and manual and mechanical sweeping.
“We will always welcome support from businesses and community members alike. We have litter picking kits ready to support community initiatives and earlier this year launched the street champions scheme, which has proven really popular.
“In addition our enforcement team are working really hard, issuing Fixed Penalty Notices to those caught dropping litter and we are continuing with a no tolerance stance on littering as a whole.”