THE teen shelter in Anning Road playing field in Lyme Regis will be removed following reports of drug taking, underage drinking and anti-social behaviour.
Residents raised concerns about the use of the teen shelter at the July meeting of the Town Management & Highways Committee, before the council’s summer break.
They said they felt behaviour in the shelter had become a “great danger to young children”, with older teenagers reportedly taking drugs, underage drinking and carrying out sexual acts in front of children, as well as playing loud music late into the night.
One resident said he was assaulted by a youngster after trying to address the issues, while another said their 10-year-old son was scared to go in the playing field after receiving abuse from teenagers.
The residents said they had no issue with young children using the shelter, but a group of older teenagers were causing the problems.
The issue was raised again this week as full council were asked to finalise the committee’s recommendation that the shelter should be removed.
However, some councillors said the problem had improved in recent weeks and argued that the shelter should remain in place for the time being.
Councillor Stan Williams said: “I am concerned about our playing field. There’s no doubt about it, our whole country is becoming very concerned about our young people and there’s no doubt that trafficking of drugs as well as drink does go on there.
“Should there be an accident in Lyme Regis it would be a disaster for all of us; it would be on council property and we have to properly supervise all our areas and make sure they are safe for the young people.”
Influence on younger children
Councillor Brian Larcombe added: “The reason we agreed this was that young children in the park were being the target of abuse. I am worried that younger children are influenced by older youngsters who are misusing it.”
Councillor Owen Lovell said that youngsters had moved to a different shelter within the actual play park area in recent weeks, adding: “Is it our intention to remove that one as well? The problem hasn’t gone away and if you take them both down they will go somewhere else.”
Councillor Cheryl Reynolds said she had previously pointed out that removing the shelter would only move the problem elsewhere.
Councillor John Broom commented: “It is a problem but the police have been doing a good job on it, it’s not quite as bad. They are visiting it on irregular hours so I think we should leave it alone to see what happens.”
Councillor Larcombe argued: “Maybe there’s less impact because they’ve moved to the other shelter where it has less effect on residents. My point is, it’s the effect on kids using that park wherever the shelter is.
“If they abuse the other shelter, out it goes. We have a responsibility to protect younger children from the kind of influences these mindless, anti-social behaviour examples put upon them.”
The Mayor, Councillor Michaela Ellis, said there was “no way” the council should be removing both shelters to the detriment of those who wanted to use them properly.
‘Nothing but trouble’
Councillor Sean Larcombe asked if the council removed both shelters, would it then remove the wooden ship in the play park, as this would become the next place for youngsters to gather.
Councillor Derek Hallett said: “We were all pretty sure at the committee meeting and agreed it would be taken down. Now you’re saying things are getting better but it will come back. If you don’t take it away it will all be there again and you’ll have to go through this in a few months’ time again.
“It’s been a problem ever since it was put there, I’ve seen it time and time again, nothing but trouble. The answer is take it away to end the trouble. If you choose different, the poor residents around there will have to put up with it again.”
Councillor Broom proposed holding off taking the shelter down for six months to see how the situation developed. However, Councillor Brian Larcombe pointed out that this would be over the winter months, when the shelter would not be used so much, and would not give an accurate view of the problem.
Councillor Jeff Scowen commented: “This is a difficult one because I agree that it will just move the problem elsewhere. “I think we should take down the teen shelter but carefully look at what happens and where these people go and I think the only way to deal with it is a CCTV set up. They will go elsewhere.”
Abuse ‘not acceptable’
Councillor Brian Larcombe said: “What message are we giving? Are we constantly saying ‘well next time…’? Do we have to wait for something really bad to happen?
“I think it’s bad enough now from the complaints we have heard and I’m concerned about the influence on younger children because they’re the adults of tomorrow, and the very young kids are influenced by their teenage peers.
“The kind of abuse that’s being pushed their way is unacceptable. That shelter is in the wrong place, it should simply go. I’m not worried about where they go next because wherever they go, if it’s a problem, we tackle it. What we don’t do is run away from it.”
Councillor Reynolds argued: “Like Sean said, you take this shelter down, then the next one, then the boat because they’re going under that, and then you’re left without a play park at all.”
Councillor Brian Larcombe said her view was “too simplistic”.
Councillor Broom’s proposal to leave the shelter for six months failed to win enough support, meaning the original proposal to remove it straight away was passed.