Council apologises after Woodhall Spa clean-up fiasco

HERO:  The last surviving British Dambuster, George 'Johnny' Johnson, attended the unveiling of the memorial in Woodhall Spa. Picture: John Aron.
HERO: The last surviving British Dambuster, George 'Johnny' Johnson, attended the unveiling of the memorial in Woodhall Spa. Picture: John Aron.

East Lindsey District Council has apologised after a Woodhall Spa business owner who is in her eighties was left to clean up Royal Square - just minutes before veterans from all over the world attended two days of commemorations for the famous 617 Dambusters Squadron.

Janet Hunt, who owns Janet’s Tea Rooms, says she had to clean human excrement off seats and dog excrement from memorial wreaths after ELDC failed to clean the square which houses two memorials to the squadron.

Veterans - including Britain’s last surviving Dambuster George ‘Johnny’ Johnson - travelled to Woodhall Spa on the weekend of May 12/13, culminating in the unveiling of a new memorial to the 617 and 619 squadrons at the village’s

former World War Two airfield.

Mrs Hunt revealed she arrived at her tea room just before 6am on Saturday and decided to walk across to Royal Square to ‘see what it was like’ before the veterans turned up.

She explained: “There was human excrement smeared over a bench. The poppy wreaths had been blown about and some

had dog dirt on them.

“The litter bins were overflowing and the grass hadn’t been cut. It was disgusting.

“East Lindsey is supposed to look after the square but the state it was in was a disgrace to all those brave veterans.”

Mrs Hunt said it took her four and a half hours to clean the square. She was initially helped by a veteran who had travelled from Australia and by a local resident, Michael Farrar, who is partially sighted.

She added: “I couldn’t have done it on my own. We didn’t have time to clear the rubbish away. We put it in plastic bags and put them behind the memorial until later.”

Mrs Hunt explained an ELDC employee did help in the final stages of the clear-up, although she says he was not officially working.

She said: “We’d just about finished when the veterans started turning up. They were here all weekend. They are all heroes to me and a lot of other people.

“They gathered in the square on Sunday and then went off to unveil the new memorial.

“East Lindsey should hang their heads in shame.”

Eventually, the local branch of the Royal British Legion came to the rescue.

She added: “No-one had the key to the flag pole so the Legion had to stand and hold it (the flag) during the service.”

Woodhall Spa Parish Council chairman Coun David Clarke said: “We were made aware of the problem by Janet and have made a formal complaint to ELDC.

“The Interim Operations Manager has given us his apologies saying: ‘We are going through a period of change however, this should not affect the services that we provide in Royal Square.

“All I can do is to apologise that on this occasion we did not meet our usual high standards.’

“The issue of the flag is an omission on our part; when we took the flag down to replace it with the Polish flag for the Polish Heritage weekend it was observed that the flag was in a terrible state and needed replacing.

“We were not able to replace it in time and omitted to re-fly the original flag for the ceremony.

“I personally thanked Janet for her efforts to clean up the square.”

ELDC’s Neighbourhood Services Manager, Danny Wilson, said: “Unfortunately, on this occasion we hadn’t been informed of the event at Royal Square, which meant our teams hadn’t been briefed to pay additional attention to the area.

“When we are notified that an event is to take place at Royal Square, we do go the extra mile to ensure the area is well presented.

“We have apologised to the Woodhall Spa town clerk that the site wasn’t up to the normal standard we usually keep the site maintained to.”

Meetings are planned over the coming weeks to discuss ELDC handing over responsibility for maintaining the square to the parish council.