WHAT IS it in the psychological make-up of the British that makes so many of us prone to spitting in the streets?

When we’re not hacking up mucus, “gobbing” at fellow teenagers or excreting saliva just for the hell of it, we’re spattering the pavements with chewing gum.

According to the Keep Britain Tidy Group, 99 per cent of the nation’s main shopping streets are now spattered with gum and 64 per cent of all roads and pavements are stained by it.

The Local Government Association says that councils in England and Wales spend a staggering £60 million a year removing gum from our streets - enough cash to fill more than one million potholes.

Chewing gum is a nightmare to remove from paving slabs. It sticks to the soles of shoes and the pressure from every foot grinds it further into the ground. Even when it is scraped off, it leaves a stain which is almost as unsightly as the gum itself.

Now Bradford Council is launching yet another “hard-hitting” campaign to stop people dropping or spitting gum onto the ground across the district.

The latest initiative, which is aligning with a national campaign organised by the Chewing Gum Action Group – the fact such an organisation even exists speaks volumes– will start on October 5. It is aimed at changing behaviour and making people think twice before dropping their gum on roads and pavements.

Predictably, the anonymous, gutless, online philosophers have already started attacking the council for “wasting money” and getting their priorities wrong by spending resources on litter-picking instead of extra police (which, of course, councils do not fund) etc etc.

But they are aiming at completely the wrong targets. As LGA environment spokesman Judith Blake says: “Councils have no legal obligation to clear up the gum. They do it for the benefit of their shoppers, town centre users, businesses and residents; to make the pavements more attractive and the environment better.”

If the Council didn’t clear this disgusting mess off the pavements, who would?

Trying to convince the perpetrators not to do it in the first place is like emptying a swimming pool with a fishing net, dribble by dribble.

Many initiatives have been tried – from posters to litter patrols, from providing gum-only bins to chalking circles around every piece of gum – but few seem to make any real difference.

It’s not a new problem, of course; there are “no spitting” rules quoted in books as far back as the Middle Ages and do you remember when buses used to carry a “Do Not Spit” notice?

Neither, to be fair, is it confined to Britain. China launched a war on gum-chewers back in 2003 when research showed that 600,000 gobs of gum were spat on to Tiananmen Square in one seven-day national holiday period.

Even Sweden, with its global reputation for super-clean streets, has been forced to step up its efforts and the Keep Sweden Tidy Foundation now has an early-prevention programmes in almost all the country’s schools.

Attitudes can be changed, though, with the right action and the right motivation.

Singapore banned chewing gum in 1992 as a means of making its streets more attractive and generally encouraging decent behaviour. Although the law changed in 2004, apparently you would be hard-pressed to find gum on the streets of Singapore even today.

In some primitive societies, anybody caught fouling the streets in this way might be expected to face an “eye-for-an-eye” style of punishment. Or, more appropriately in this case, “tooth for a tooth” – pulling their teeth out would give them plenty of time to contemplate the true nature of the word “gum.”

Attractive as that notion is, something a little less savage might do the trick, such as forcing them to dress in bright orange overalls and scrape and scrub ten square metres of Centenary Square with a spoon and a toothbrush until it’s spotless.

But, given that behaviour is hard to change, the emphasis must be put on those making big money out of the situation – the gum manufacturers, who should be forced to come up with a “non-stick, non-stain” product and, while they’re doing it, make a huge contribution to the cost of cleaning up the mess they generate.

A strange lack of credit for this woman of note

PLEASED, as I genuinely am, to see the face of Jane Austen adorning the new £10 banknote, I couldn’t understand the petition launched four years ago saying that “An all-male line-up on our banknotes sends out the damaging message that no woman has done anything important enough to appear.”

Surely a quick look at the reverse side of any banknote, where you will find an image of one of the most extraordinary women in modern British history, would have solved that. I would suggest being our longest-reigning monarch through an incredible period of change is “important enough”, isn’t it?

Take a deep breath (while you can) and back this campaign…

IT’S GREAT news for campaigners that they are going to have their day in court over the planned “waste-to-energy” plant at Marley, near Keighley.

Aire Valley Against Incineration has, rightly, been granted a judicial review over Bradford Council’s misguided decision to approve the proposals by Endless Energy Ltd for the £135 million waste disposal incinerator.

The protesters are confident that common sense will eventually prevail over the scheme, which is similar to numerous others that have been fought off around the country.

There is an undeniable logic about their case which, somehow, went completely over the heads of the planners: you simply cannot build a plant like this in the bottom of a valley, no matter how tall it’s chimney is. Anyone within a radius of 10 miles or so of the Marley site really should be thinking about adding their support to this campaign…