Parks in York, Leeds and Sheffield blighted by litter following lockdown easing and two of hottest March days in fifty years

A mass clean-up operation took place in Yorkshire’s parks yesterday after members of the public left litter strewn across open spaces as they enjoyed newfound freedom after lockdown.

Police have assisted with the litter picking operation on Woodhouse Moor

Groups of up to six people, or unlimited numbers from two households, can now gather outdoors or in gardens legally and thousands took advantage of the warm weather for picnics in parks across the county.

In Sheffield, where temperatures yesterday reached 22 degrees, seven tonnes of rubbish was left in the city’s Endcliffe Park, according to the city council.

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Volunteers and council staff were left to clean up the area, and 200 bins have been installed to encourage people to throw their rubbish away.

The council tweeted: “We know people have missed socialising in the sun but this is not what is meant by easing out of lockdown.” The city’s Hallam MP Olivia Blake said the scenes were “outrageous”.

Similar problems were seen at Hyde Park and Woodhouse Moor, in Leeds.

A spokesperson for Leeds Council said: “There has been a huge amount of litter left behind on Woodhouse Moor which is both hugely frustrating and disappointing.

“Our parks staff are currently working extremely hard to empty bins and pick up litter, not just at Woodhouse Moor but across all our parks in Leeds.

“We have also had to divert a significant number of Cleaner Neighbourhoods Team staff from other important work to help with the clean-up at Woodhouse Moor.

Meredith Cooper, 26, a student who lives near Woodhouse Moor, said: “It’s really disgusting that people left their litter piled up by the bins and across the grass, and it’s an issue that happens every time there’s a hot day in Leeds.

“Today was the worst I’ve ever seen it, and it’s probably made worse by the fact that everyone’s been cooped up for a year, and there’s not enough bins in that park and they hadn’t been emptied for a few days prior.”

Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn tweeted: “Those who left this mess yesterday should come back today and clear it up.”

There was also significant amounts of litter left around Millennium Bridge, in York, in scenes that Abigail Gaines, chairman of the Friends of Rowntree Park said were “horrible”.

She said: “People come to a beautiful place but don’t respect the beauty. They seem to assume it’s someone else’s job to clean up after them.”

Coun Paula Widdowson, executive member for the environment and climate change at York City Council said: “We know the past few days have been exciting for people with the sun shining and the chance to see our friends again after the challenging year we have had. We are asking people to enjoy Easter safely and responsibly.

“Scenes of litter left behind by a minority of groups are completely unacceptable.

“We want our parks to be a place for people to relax and enjoy themselves, not places full of litter. Not only is it a blight on the landscape, it is unhygienic, especially in the middle of a pandemic.”