A DEEP clean of the pavements in Henley town centre has been approved by the town council.
Councillors agreed to pay £5,518 for contractor Veolia to carry out the work in Market Place, Bell Street, Duke Street and Hart Street.
The company will sweep rubbish and loose grit from the streets by hand before cleaning them with a pressure washer. It will then use a steamer to remove chewing gum and other difficult stains, such as paint and fat.
Veolia has promised the town council that the process is safe for the paving, which is made of York stone.
About £600,000 was spent laying the slabs in Market Place in 2001 and £400,000 on new paving in Duke Street.
The deep clean is expected to start within the next month and will take several days to complete.
The council sought quotes from three other contractors, the most expensive of which was £14,477.10 and cheapest was £1,096 but that would not have include the gum removal.
It also considered hiring equipment and paying its staff to carry out the work but this would have cost up to £15,373.
The work used to be carried out every year by South Oxfordshire District Council but it stopped the service this year as a cost-saving measure.
The district council still pays for a cleaner to visit every day to empty the bins and pick up litter.
Speaking at a town council meeting on Tuesday, Councillor Jeni Wood said: “This is a no-brainer because the town isn’t looking as beautiful as it could. I propose that we don’t hesitate any longer.”
Councillor Martin Akehurst said: “It’s a lovely York stone square. We would be failing in our duty if we did not look after it.”
Councillor Joan Bland, who owns a town centre shop, supported the deep clean but said it would not tackle the root of the problem.
“We have to educate the people of Henley not to litter the streets with cigarette packets, cigarette ends and chewing gum,” she said.
“We also have a big problem with dog waste and I think we need signs for humans telling them not to leave it there.
“People in Henley should just wake up and stop making a mess of our beautiful town. They need to be a lot more tidy.”
Cllr David Clenshaw said: “I think it is a great pity that the town council has got to find the money for this when it is the district council’s responsibility.”
Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak said he had arranged a meeting with the district council’s strategic director Matt Prosser to discuss funding deep cleans in future.
The district council is considering buying deep cleaning equipment which could be used by towns and villages throughout the district.
Cllr Gawrysiak is also campaigning for businesses in the town centre to sweep up outside their premises.
So far, 26 businesses including retailers, pubs, cafes and restaurants have agreed to support the scheme.