THE Wycombe district has been ranked as the fourth dirtiest area in the south east - making it the filthiest in Bucks.

A survey has found 28.5 per cent of the streets and highways around the district were strewn with litter and other debris putting it above South Bucks, Aylesbury and Chiltern.

The worst area in the south east was Horsham in West Sussex and the filthiest place in the country was Havering in London.

The number of grubby streets throughout UK towns and districts were taken from the Government's 2005/6 Audit Commission, which all local authorities have to supply information to. The numbers were picked up and then ranked by cleanliness and published by the GMB, Britain's public sector union.

The GMB's survey also makes Wycombe district the 26th dirtiest area in the UK out of 350. Nationally High Wycombe and its surrounding towns were found to be muckier than bigger areas such as Brighton, Bristol and Leeds.

But the council and environmentalists have hit back at the study and believe the district's unwanted accolade is unfair.

Jeanette Mann, Wycombe district councillor for Disraeli, said she thought the town had a litter problem but that it should not be ranked in the south east's top ten squalid towns.

She said: "I agree that it's dirty. I don't agree that we're the fourth dirtiest because I have seen worse.

"I would just like to see my town cleaned up and we're doing our best for it.

"I agree that it needs a hell of a lot more work put into it and I think the public should help the council and keep the place clean.

"It's our town, it's our environment."

Bucks Free Press photographer Sacha Lilla was sent out yesterday to find mucky areas of High Wycombe but admitted having trouble finding anywhere too filthy.

Rubbish-strewn streets were also found to be a number one concern for residents this week, when the Environment Centre carried out a consultation in the High Street.

Sam Clements, event coordinator at the centre in Bassetsbury Lane, was asking shoppers what their main environmental worry was as part of a bid he is putting together for lottery funding.

He said: "This issue has actually cropped up quite a few times so it's on people's minds.

"I wouldn't say we're one of the dirtiest towns in the region, I have seen plenty worse.

"I think generally people in the town are pretty conscientious about their litter but we can always do better.

"If we have been given this accolade, it's a reminder to us all that there's a problem out there that needs tackling."

The district council wanted to point out the number of grimy streets around the district has dropped and it was aiming to lower the percentage even more over the next three years.

Catherine Spalton, Wycombe District Council spokesman, said: "There are a range of performance indicators, set by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, that measure environmental cleanliness.

"One performance indicator measures the level of litter across different land uses in the district.

"The negative out-turn for the Wycombe district was 28.5 per cent in 2005/06, which improved to 26.6 per cent in 2006/07, and means that 71.5 per cent of the different land uses measured in the district were found to have high levels of cleanliness.

"We have set targets to improve on this each year and to achieve 20 per cent by 2009/10."