Security firm to guard Sidmouth gardens?

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

Gardeners constantly left to clean up after vandals at Sidmouth’s Connaught Gardens are hoping to secure funding for a private security firm to regularly patrol the beauty spot.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) is working with a volunteer to trial additional patrols at the attraction as antisocial culprits have caused thousands of pounds worth of damage and extra work for its StreetScene team.

The authority has also teamed up with the town’s Local Action Group [LAG] and police to look into installing CCTV cameras at the gardens.

Barry Maher, area officer for the StreetScene team, told a LAG meeting this week that a security company has been carrying out patrols as the gardens have become a venue for large groups of young people - particularly at weekends.

He added: “I’m hoping for some additional funding from East Devon to put into place regular patrols. That kind of presence will have a good positive effect and let young people know this area is somewhere that is going to be looked after. People noticed what is going on and are doing something about it. It is quite established now as a venue for young people in the evenings.”

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Police have also increased patrols and, at a recent town council meeting, it was discussed that authorities may have no option but to close the gardens at night. In a meeting with a crime prevention officer and the StreetScene team, it was said it would be difficult to put access controls in place.

An EDDC spokeswoman told the Herald this week: “As yet no additional funding has been provided for either CCTV, patrols or physical security measures at Connaught Gardens. If we can’t improve the situation in the short-term, we will have to report to our members and seek additional budget to control the issue.”

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The action group agreed to create a sub-group to work with young people.

Councillor Dawn Manley said: “It is really difficult finding the balance - on the one hand we do not have a problem with them gathering and chatting and playing low-level music, but there is always those few who take it that little bit too far and spoil it for the others.”

Peter Sullivan, LAG chairman, said: “The word needs to be going out - not that you’re not welcome, but just behave when you’re there.”

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