A PRESSURE group waging war on Taunton’s litter has issued a stark warning to traders to tackle the problem . . . or face court. 

Seagulls tearing open bin liners, unsealed sacks spilling refuse on pavements overnight, loose cardboard left on the ground and public littering have become all too familiar scenes in the county town, but no more, says the Taunton Forward taskforce.

Around 500 letters are being hand-delivered to town centre retailers by TauntonForward volunteers in a push by the organisation and Taunton Deane Council to clean up the town centre.

In a move towards “zero tolerance of waste crime”, the council is telling businesses to take control of their rubbish and keep it out of seagulls’ sight lines or be the subject of an investigation.

Chris Hall, assistant director of operational delivery at the council and the man responsible for the transformation of the Direct Labour Organisa-tion, said: “There has been a marked increase in heavy littering overnight in Taunton town centre.

“Much is being caused by commercial waste bags and loose items, such as cardboard boxes, being left out overnight and being split open with the contents strewn around by members of the public or seagulls.”

Section 34 of the Environ-mental Protection Act 1990 places a duty of care on all commercial waste producers to prevent their waste from ‘escaping’ from theirs or someone else’s control before being collected for disposal.

Failure to do so – for example, by regularly putting waste out unprotected from seagull attack – and a manager or owner could be issued with a court summons.

TauntonForward’s letter campaign comes after members’ demands to improve the town centre were met by the Deane Council with a £102,000 commitment to improve its upkeep at a meeting on Tues-day.

It means a big boost to street cleansing, including the app-ointment of an additional caretaker, weed spraying pavements, grass cutting and rep-lacing litter bins.

Alan Garbutt, of Taunton-Forward, said the result was “1-0” to the organisation.

He said: “The main budget will cover all that we wanted to happen and were pushing for, including the verges.

“It’s all going to happen, at least until the next financial year when we’ll have to go through this all over again.”

Deputy council leader Mark Edwards said: “We really have listened to the people – we have our own eyes as well, and can see where there are problems, and are investing accordingly.”