Civic chiefs have criticised a food and drink chain for leaving a large number of bags of rubbish outside its shop in the middle of Cheltenham’s High Street. Pret a Manger left the see-through bags piled up in an incident that drew a stern rebuke from the town’s civic society and borough council.

The civic society described the mess that had been left on the street on the last Bank Holiday Monday as a “horrendous example of fly-tipping”. One of its trustees, Hugh Curran, spotted it and contacted the company.

Its customer services representative apologised and said the matter would be dealt with. Mr Curran responded, in an email to the chain, by saying: “Cheltenham Civic Society works tirelessly all year round to try to protect and enhance Cheltenham’s town centre.

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“It is therefore thoroughly dispiriting to see a company like Pret cause a mess like this. We expect retailers like Pret to be, like our many corporate partners, supporting our efforts – if only out of self-interest and certainly not to be the cause of such problems.”

A civic society spokesman said: “It seems that it never occurred to them that their waste contractor might not turn up on a Bank Holiday morning! Eventually, the mess was cleared (leaving coffee and juice stains on the paving), but not in time to prevent thousands of shoppers and Jazz Festival-goers from being presented with this awful image of Cheltenham.

“We’ve checked the rules and even one such bag of rubbish left on the street counts as fly-tipping, so that puts it into Cheltenham Borough Council’s domain as an enforcement issue.”

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A Pret a Manger spokesman said: “At Pret, we are proud to be part of the communities where we have shops, and are disappointed to have fallen short of our own standards on this occasion. We are working with our waste management provider and team members to make sure this won’t happen again and sincerely apologise to the Cheltenham community.”

Mike Redman, the borough council’s director of environment, said: “Every business in Cheltenham must comply with the law regarding the disposal of commercial waste. The law requires anyone dealing with waste to keep it safe, make sure it’s dealt with responsibly and only given to businesses authorised to take it.

“We work with the Cheltenham Business Improvement District (BID) and directly with local businesses to make sure everyone helps to keep Cheltenham clean and safe. When incidents are reported to us, they are recorded and the waste may be removed; where suitable evidence is available, some cases can involve enforcement action, including the recovery of the council’s costs.

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“One of the BID ambassadors worked with our Neighbourhood Team to engage with the staff at Pret a Manger about this incident, which we understand was made worse by a failure of their private refuse carrier to remove the bagged waste at the time expected. This was clearly not acceptable in terms of its impact on the High Street, other traders and those visiting the town centre.

“We are confident that our proportionate approach to enforcement is both robust and effective and provides for penalty options in the rare cases where local businesses fail to operate responsibly.’’

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