Is it time to scrap ‘drug den’ shelter for good?

East Preston FC chairman Terry Doyle holding drug packets found on the ground at the recreation ground in Lashmar Road. Photo by Derek Martin Photography
East Preston FC chairman Terry Doyle holding drug packets found on the ground at the recreation ground in Lashmar Road. Photo by Derek Martin Photography

East Preston residents have called time on a shelter which they claim has become a nest for drug dealing.

The green structure was installed at Lashmar Recreation Ground in 2007 to give youths somewhere to meet, but was taken down recently to make way for a multi-use games area which is currently being built.

Drug packets found at the Lashmar recreation ground in East Preston. Photo by Derek Martin Photography

Drug packets found at the Lashmar recreation ground in East Preston. Photo by Derek Martin Photography

At a meeting last Monday, residents urged East Preston Parish Council’s amenties committee not to reinstall it, as it had become a breeding ground for drug taking, dealing and antisocial behavior.

Tim Brown, 48, from Roundstone Drive, lived opposite the park and often confronted teenagers whose messy behaviour he compared to ‘rats’.

He said: “The shelter has become a drug den and a blot upon East Preston.

“The drugs are a stain upon us, without a doubt, but it is the rubbish and the behaviour and the rats it will cause. It is disgusting.

“The shelter has outgrown its purpose and has become an eyesore. It must not be put back up.”

East Preston Sports and Social Club, which has its football grounds nearby, has been blighted by vandalism at the hands of anti-social youths. Earlier this year, CCTV cameras were installed which caught them setting fire to seats in the stands.

Andy Parsons, committee member for the social club, said the council needed to invest in CCTV cameras in the park to stop them ‘once and for all’. He said: “You need to film them in the act and prosecute them and then hopefully it will stop.

“The police are stretched beyond belief and they aren’t interested in people smoking or buying drugs.”

In response, PCSOs Rebecca Bernier and Neil Billingham told residents the more incidents they reported to police, the more the area would be prioritised.

Mr Billingham said: “The message is and always has been: we need the phone calls from everybody.”

Richard Hack, who coaches the three to six-year-old youth players, had to pick up empty bags of ecstacsy, cannabis and MDMA, broken bottles, cans and used sanitary towels off the grass before training on Saturday mornings.

He said: “The area needs to be a safe place to play. I feel very strongly that not having that green shelter would make it safer.”

The committee voted to not reinstall it and to monitor anti-social behaviour without the shelter. The decision will be revisited later this year.

Committee chairman Rick McElroy said: “We don’t want your children in any way, shape or form in harm’s way.

“In my personal opinion, we need to light that place up like a Christmas tree and take the sides off to get rid of the problems. If not, we can remove the shelter at a later date.”

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Parsons welcomed the decision.

He said: “The council has listened to us, which is a great result. Hopefully it will resolve the problems and we can move forward with our football academy and encourage more children to come up.”