Public garden in Sidmouth maybe closed in evenings if vandalism does not stop

Sidmouth in summer. Connaught Gardens in its full floral glory. Ref shs 7006-33-15AW. Picture: Alex

Sidmouth in summer. Connaught Gardens in its full floral glory. Ref shs 7006-33-15AW. Picture: Alex Walton - Credit: Archant

A public garden in Sidmouth may have to be gated and locked at night if issues with antisocial behaviour cannot be resolved.

Sergeant Andy Squires spoke out about the problem at the latest Sidmouth Town Council meeting.

The Herald has previously reported on the vandalism that has plagued Connaught Gardens, causing hundreds of pounds worth of damage.

The area has become a problem spot for antisocial behaviour and youths are seen up there most weekends.

Sgt Squires said the majority of the youngsters were ‘fantastic’ and they did not have a problem with them being there.

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He said it was the other 10 per cent that would scarper on their arrival and those were the ones police needed to speak to.

Sgt Squires said: “The vast majority are fantastic and we always say we don’t have a problem with them sitting listening to music and having a drink and a chat. I am not there to shut that down.

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“But, it is a problem for East Devon District Council (EDDC) when that 10 per cent rips all the plants up that the gardeners have spent the previous three days laying and within hours it is all trashed – it comes out of mine and your pockets and it is soul destroying for the gardeners.”

He said police had already increased patrols but one consideration was to put gates on all the entrances and lock them in the evening.

Sgt Squires said there was also a potential bylaw EDDC could use on public gardens, making it an offence to enter it after 9pm.

“It would give us a tool which we could quote to the youngsters.

“I’m not saying we’re going to shut all the gates but it’s a consideration on the table.”

Councillor Louise Cole said they needed to take care of young people and provide them with things to do and places to go, not shut all the options down.

She added: “It is great they go and congregate in the parks and open spaces and I think it would be a great shame if our approach was to close them down.

“Maybe we should be thinking more innovatively and using Connaught Gardens to put on open-air concerts and evening events.

“There is always the minority of people who drink alcohol and get silly and do destructive things, ruining it for everybody, however, we cannot take that approach.

“We have so little indoor space for younger people, lets make our outdoor space work better.”

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