‘Use of Sidmouth attraction as drinking den is costing public a fortune’

Blackmore Gardens in summer time. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 4758-24-14AW. To order your copy o

Blackmore Gardens in summer time. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 4758-24-14AW. To order your copy of this photograph go to www.sidmouthherald.co.uk and click on Photo Orders - Credit: Archant

Persistent criminal damage in Blackmore Gardens - that has cost taxpayers £1,500 to date - has been condemned by authorities in Sidmouth.

Town clerk Christopher Holland spoke this week of his disappointment that the conservatory at the normally-tranquil and picturesque plot has been a frequent target for vandals and people using it as their ‘personal drinking den’.

Sidmouth Town Council owns the building – which is open to the public during the day, but locked at night – and has been working with police, who have warned that persistent offenders could face prison or a £2,500 fine.

Mr Holland said: “We have had a lot of damage and unfortunately it seems to be used on a regular basis by people using it as an outdoor drinking den. It has resulted in the doors being kicked-in and broken windows and locks. It is all a fair expense to the taxpayer. One can only wonder why people would do this in the first place. It’s very disappointing when it’s a conservatory put there for the enjoyment of the public. These people seem to think they can just break in and use it as their own personal drinking spot. It’s just disappointing because there are plenty of pubs around the place.”

Mr Holland estimated that the cost of repairing damage and replacing broken locks has amounted to £1,500 so far. He added: “We will seriously have to consider the future of the conservatory if it’s consistently damaged like that.”

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Sergeant Andy Squires said that damage is occurring most weekends - after which the gardens have been found strewn with litter, broken glass, beer cans and uprooted plants. Sgt Squires said officers had patrolled the site at 5pm on Friday when the lock on the conservatory was intact. When they returned at 7pm, they found it had been broken and forced off.

“It’s mainly people breaking in that cause the costly damage,” said Sgt Squires.

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“It is an offence to destroy or damage property either intentionally or by being reckless. This is very much intentional and the fine for someone aged 18 or over is £90 initially - if the person has not come to the attention of police before.

“The maximum penalty is three months’ imprisonment or a £2,500 fine. Juveniles will be referred to youth offending teams.

“We do not have a problem with young people socialising and having a good time, but when they start ruining public property it’s a different matter.”

The message from Sgt Squires is: “Choose somewhere different, because it’s costing the tax public a fortune in terms of repair costs.”

He added that officers will continue to patrol the area.

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