Pictures show amount of rubbish at Devon clifftop beauty spot

A councillor is backing calls for action to tackle overflowing litter bins at a Devon beauty spot.

Local resident Debbie Hye has taken a series of photographs through January and February to provide evidence of the extent of the problem at Babbacombe Downs in Torquay.

She is concerned about the bins being regularly full and left surrounded by rubbish which is blown onto cliffs and into the sea, and has started a personal campaign for improvements.

There has been a regular problem with litter during lockdown, and residents expect it to get worse when restrictions are lifted and more visitors arrive.

St Marychurch councillor Hazel Foster has supported the campaign and has been asking Torbay Council for more bins or more frequent emptying to tackle the excess litter. The councillor said she had been told that the council considered there were already enough bins in place.

A council spokesperson said later that the authority was aware of the concerns at Babbacombe and was due to start a review of bins across Torbay in April to assess provision at individual sites.

Babbacombe Downs is a grassed area with cliff-top walks on the route of the South West Coast Path, overlooking Babbacombe Bay and offering spectacular views eastwards along the coast towards Portland in Dorset. The location is popular with holidaymakers and features a cliff-railway to Oddicombe Beach.

Debbie Hye, who lives in St Marychurch, is a volunteer with the Babbacombe Bay Bloomers group, which looks after flower displays, planted areas and woodland in St Marychurch and neighbouring Babbacombe. She has personally organised litter picks through a social group she belongs to and has joined several beach cleans.

Debbie has been monitoring the Downs through January and February and has a collection of early-morning photographs from at least 16 different days, showing bins full to the top and surrounded by rubbish, with items caught in undergrowth on the cliffs.

(Image: Debbie Hye)

She concluded from her survey that there were not enough bins to cope, the current ones were unsuitable for bulky takeaway packaging, and emptying them in the morning meant rubbish left stacked around them was blown away overnight, making the problem worse.

Debbie said the bins only covered half the cliff-top path, although one that was burnt out near the Babbacombe Theatre had been left in place and was still being used despite the lack of plastic case.

Litter on Babbacombe Downs at Torquay on Sunday, February 28
(Image: Debbie Hye)

She said: “I have got pictures of overflowing bins during January when the conditions were sub-zero.

“There are just not enough bins, they are not the right kind of bins for the rubbish that is being thrown into them, and they are just not being emptied regularly enough.

“If rubbish is left there in the evening, we know that it has been there for 12 hours before it is emptied.

(Image: Google Maps)

“Rubbish blows over the cliff-top and through the railings, it is heart-breaking how much plastic and rubbish is down there. There are tonnes of it blowing over the cliffs and down into the sea.”

She added: “Personally I think it is one of the most beautiful places in the whole of Torbay, and it is just tragic to see it like that. Rubbish has blown through the railings onto the cliffs and will never be retrieved.”

(Image: Debbie Hye)

Cllr Hazel Foster said she had taken up the concerns of local residents about litter on the Downs with Torbay Council, which supplies the bins and organises collections through a contractor.

The councillor said: “The council got back to me and said they have done an assessment and no more collections are needed. I would like to see the council taking action on this. There need to be more collections and more litter bins around.

“When lockdown restrictions are lifted, more and more people will want to go and walk around the Downs. They might want to go and have a picnic, and if the council doesn’t empty the bins often enough, you are just going to get littering.

Litter on Babbacombe Downs at Torquay on Sunday, February 28
(Image: Debbie Hye)

“There is a bin which was set on fire in the summer. When I asked about replacing it, they said no, they are not going to replace it, because they have done an assessment and this bin is not needed. No extra bins are needed, so they are not going to do anything. It is just not on.

“People are going there to have a walk and exercise, and with the fine weather it is going to be a hotspot.

“If the council doesn’t do anything about it, it is just going to get worse. Residents should not have to go out during lockdown and pick up the litter themselves.”

Last July after the easing of the first lockdown restrictions the authority joined a national campaign to put up posters at popular sites including Babbacombe with the message “Bin it or take it home”.

A Torbay Council spokesperson said: “We are aware of the concerns that have been raised, and will shortly be conducting a review on bin provision across the whole of Torbay.

“The outcomes of the review will allow us to fully assess the right level of provision at individual sites. We are anticipating the review will start in April 2021, with a completion date of October 2021.”

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