A WOULD-BE entrepreneur has cried foul after he touted a "dog dirt vacuum cleaner" to Hyndburn Council only for it to trial a similar machine just weeks later.
Out-of-work builder Lee Bowker hit on the idea about three months ago.
Believing his invention to be unique and with a patent inquiry lodged, Lee contacted the council’s environmental department and, he claims, was told to finalise his designs.
But then, while reading last week’s Observer, Lee was stunned to discover that council officers were suddenly testing a product manufactured by a firm based 300 miles away in Sussex.
Lee, of Ribbleton Drive, Accrington, said: "There are three stages of the technology. The first part is a machine which is capable of sucking up dog mess. The second aspect is a disinfectant gel which you spray on it and the third is the chemicals which break down the dog mess in a holding cell."
He added: "It just seems too much of a coincidence and I’m disappointed because I rang the council in confidence."
Trafalgar Cleaning Equipment was approached by the council last month about one of its range of excrement and litter cleaners – which it has supplied to a number of local authorities for several years.
The "Cub" vacuum is currently listed at £849.
Council leader Peter Britcliffe said: "I know the idea of dog poo vacuum cleaners is not new. Unfortunately, like many new ideas, you find that someone had it first.
"Whether Mr Bowker coming along has put the idea for us to try one in someone’s head I’m not sure. It’s a reasonable idea and we will see if it’s practicable to achieve it."
Trafalgar sales executive Alex Murphy said that local authority interest in the devices – essentially a combined wheelie bin, petrol engine and vacuum hose system – has surged recently.
He said: "The main advantage is that the operator has zero or minimal contact with the dog faeces itself. Another version comes in a backpack which is like a big rucksack with a motor on the top, which you carry around on your back."