Concerns over homeless drug use near Portsmouth library prompts mass clean-up

SHRUBS have been chopped back outside a Portsmouth library to stop homeless people from using the area as a '˜drugs den'.

Saturday, 26th November 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 12:41 pm
Beddow library in Milton, where bushes have been cut back to deter rough sleepers who were leaving drug paraphenalia

The clean-up operation also led to 200 needles and human waste being found near Beddow Library in Milton.

Portsmouth City Council hacked away at trees and bushes outside the library and padlocked the gate to deter problem makers from abusing the land.

The action followed reports homeless people had been using the area between the library and Milton Village Community Association, as a place to shelter during the night and take drugs.

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Dan James, South Group library manager, said: ‘A situation, that started out as one homeless gentleman sleeping on the grounds, escalated to the point where numerous people were using the garden space to sleep and take drugs.’

The problems started when a tent was spotted in the grounds by staff at the library and the community centre.

Initially, officials asked the users to leave it as evidence of drug use was becoming more apparent.

There were fears drugs were being left in places where members of the public could get to.

Equipment the community raised cash for had been damaged. The concerns follow warnings over problems in communities associated with drug use.

Milton Lib Dem councillor and former council leader, Gerald Vernon-Jackson, has criticised the Tory administration for cutting the public health budget to the tune of £602,000, which would result in fewer people getting support for substance misuse.

Community campaign group Keep Milton Green said it was decided at a Neighbourhood Open Forum that the best course of action was to cut back the greenery.

Mr James said: ‘Our reasoning behind this was firstly to make the area more visible and therefore hopefully discourage homeless drug users from occupying the space, and secondly, to discourage them from disposing of/storing paraphernalia and personal items in the bushes.’

He added: ‘I also have a duty of care for the people using the library and its facilities, and for that reason we could not tolerate the situation that we were faced with.’