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Town centre alcohol-free zones planned to combat anti-social behaviour

MELKSHAM could soon see alcohol-free zones introduced in a bid to combat anti-social behaviour in the town centre.

The Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) would ban the consumption of alcohol in public places within a designated area.

At the town council meeting this week, councillors heard from members of the public about their experiences and worries with anti-social behaviour in the town centre and unanimously voted in favour of looking into bringing the PSPO into Melksham.

Resident of Church Street, Gerald Smith said,  “We have experienced a high level of anti-social behaviour which is mainly alcohol induced.

“My family and I live opposite the park on Church Street and we see everything that goes on.  I’m not blaming the closure of the toilets but since they have shut, those who are drinking in the park need to relieve themselves somewhere and I’m concerned about that.”

Linda Rogerson, who owns offices in Melksham said, “We have brought 27 new businesses into Melksham by renovating derelict offices in Melksham and we like to support up-and-coming businesses.

“But we have serious problem with the New Hall building, opposite Town Hall. There are a lot of   drug users who live nearby and they are abusive to our tenants, we’ve had men following women, urinating on walls and as such, we just had a business turn down the opportunity to come to Melksham as they didn’t feel Melksham was the right place for their business as it wasn’t safe enough.

“We are covered by CCTV and we have spoken to the police but there’s not a lot anyone can do.”

“It is affecting businesses and it’s getting to the stage where people do not want to come down Church Street to use the shops because they are too scared.

“As far as response is concerned, we were told by the police that  we should call 101, which we do, but by the time you have got through to somebody, and described them, they’ve gone. Personally I think the answer is the alcohol free zone in the town centre.”

Responding to the comments from the public, PSCO Simon Parkinson who attended the meeting said, “I fully understand the frustration that everyone is feeling. In regards to the 101 service, it’s important to stick with it because, we may miss the opportunity to deal with that particular incident you call about, but if you make the call, then we have the evidence in our system that shows we clearly have a problem. A lot of the time, the amount of calls we have doesn’t reflect the amount of people who tell me about the problems.

“We have also recently introduced Pulse Patrols in the town, which is when all the staff on duty that day, for about 20 minutes, will flood a certain area. We will do it on different days and times of the week so the criminals won’t know when we’re coming and eventually they will disband.

“Seeing the difference in Trowbridge, I would say the PSPOis a really good thing and a way to deal with the issue long term, as long as the council are enforcing the fines that we hand out.”

Deputy mayor, cllr Jon Hubbard said, “Listening to the comments made by members of the public and the advise from Simon, the obvious thing as a council to do is, explore being able to put in the necessary orders to restrict use of alcohol in our town centre.

“I slightly regret having to say that because I think that it isn’t a positive or forward looking step but I think there is a very real challenge that is out there and we need to listen to the people who are dealing with this issue on a daily basis.”