Community concern over mental health unit smoking ban at Whittingham

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Voluntary litter pickers became so concerned about the state of the entrance to a plush, purpose built mental health secure unit littered with cigarette paraphernalia they took action.

Goosnargh and Whittingham litter picking group members Stephanie Butters and Sheila Birkby asked Preston Council’s litter education officer to take the matter up with staff at the Lancashire Care NHS Trust Guild Lodge site, where smoking is banned.

Stephanie said they were tired of picking up the ever increasing number of cigarette ends, empty cigarette packets, matches and match boxes being dumped in the area, particularly around the entrance to Guild Park on Cumeragh Lane where the unit’s residents smoke, also in the hedgerows of the NHS site, which they were not allowed to access.

While some of Guild Lodge’s residents are allowed out into the community, those who are not congregate around the entrance, one of the worst offending spots.

Stephanie said: “It was just too much to cope with. In the village, people were calling it the ‘sad corner’.”

However, they were delighted to get “an immediate response” from the trust who, she said, immediately carried out some litter picking; moved the bench next to the telephone box at the entrance and offered to organise its own litter picking group.

But the problem is, more than 100 cigarette ends can appear daily and they feel it is also undignified for residents to have to smoke there.

Stephanie said: “We feel for the residents who smoke. I see the issue the trust has, to be a total smoke free site, but we feel it is not dignified for residents to have no proper designated area to smoke.”

Residents are now sitting on pavements smoking and it is also believed they are having to hide cigarettes in bushes, as they cannot take them inside Guild Lodge.

The villages’s litter picking group began as a legacy to former resident George Ibison who voluntarily kept the villages tidy, going out three times a day to pick up litter. After his death, litter increased and Sheila spearheaded the group’s formation.