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St Austell MP calls for urgent meeting over town's 'drug problem'

St Austell MP calls for urgent meeting over town's 'drug problem'

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 6:35am 23rd July 2020. (Updated at 6:40am 23rd July 2020)

Written by Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporter

The MP for St Austell says that he will be having an urgent meeting this week with council officers and police over rising concerns about drug use and anti-social behaviour in the town centre.

Steve Double said that he had asked for the meeting after a petition was launched calling for more to be done to rid St Austell of its “heroin problem”.

The petition was launched after photos emerged on social media showing people openly taking drugs in broad daylight in the town.

Mr Double said that in his opinion Cornwall Council had placed disproportionately more people who are homeless and have specialist needs than any other town in Cornwall.

He said that this would have to stop before the problems could be addressed.

“I have called for an urgent meeting with Cornwall Council, the town council and police to just talk about what we can do immediately.

“Clearly the scenes (of drug taking) are unacceptable and also I am aware, we have got dozens of people contacting my office sauing they are very fearful to go into the town centre because of anti-social behaviour and drug taking going on.

“We need to reassure people and make it feel safe as quickly as possible.

“The number of people that Cornwall Council are placing for housing in and around the town centre area without proper support is too high.

“From what I can ascertain people have been placed in accommodation in St Austell from what I gather were in the holiday parks that Cornwall Council was using during the lockdown. Clearly those holiday parks are now open to tourists and Cornwall Council has had to relocate these people but no other support has been put in place.

“These people have very particular needs and are drug takers, there is no support put in place to support these people. All they are doing is going into the town centre and causing the problems we have seen.

“People in those conditions need housing and support but for too long now we have been very unhappy that Cornwall Council is placing far more people in St Austell than anywhere else. It now seems that St Austell is the go to place for people with these issues.

“The people of St Austell are absolutely clear, we don’t mind having our fair share and supporting genuine local people who need housing and other forms of support but we are getting more than anywhere else.

“That is how it feels and I have had acknowledgement from a Cornwall Council officer that it does appear that disproportionately more people go to St Austell than anywhere else.

“Cornwall Council keep telling me that they are looking at it but now they have to stop looking at it and take action.”

Steve Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay

Steve Double
Steve Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay

The MP said that he also wanted people to continue to contact the police if they see any anti-social behaviour or drug use in the town.

"I don’t wish to add to the local police pressures but it is important that these issues are logged.

“I have been in touch with Inspector Gard and has told me that he has put extra resource into the town centre for the next few weeks.

“That is very welcome and extra resource has been made available by the chief constable and the police and crime commissioner.

“While it is welcome, equally this is a resource that has had to be taken from another aspect of policing in the peak of summer when thay have enough on their plate as it is. We shouldn’t be having to do this in the first place.”

Steve Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay

Mr Double said that he had been due to meet with Cornwall Council chief executive Kate Kennally about St Austell but the meeting had been postponed due to the coronavirus crisis.

Asked about whether he would help facilitate a public meeting which has been asked for by those leading the petition he said he would help to do that when it was safe and appropriate.

He agreed that there needed to be more openness and transparency about what was being done to help the town.

“We need a full disclosure about what every part of Cornwall Council is doing in terms of housing and providing services.

“I am going to pursue this as a priority. The people of St Austell have a right to know what is going on.”

Steve Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay

st austell town centre
St Austell high street

Asked whether there had been any positives in the work being done in the town the MP said there had been thanks to the Safe St Austell partnership but he said that in recent months that work had been set back.

"Up until last autumn they were making really, really good progress. There was a higher police presence in the town, we were seeing the number of incidents of anti-social behaviour reducing and everybody was working together to make good progress.

“Then suddenly at the end of last year Cornwall Council opened a temporary shelter in St Austell without any consultation. A number of people were placed in there and it was just housing, the people living there clearly needed more support but were not given it.

“We saw the complaints rise again and then during lockdown it was quite but over the last few weeks we are sadly up to the levels previously seen before that good work was done.

“It seems to be a two steps forward, two steps backwards situation.”

Steve Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay

Many locals say that in recent years the town centre has changed so that they no longer feel safe and that people do not feel confident letting their children visit.

We asked the MP if he felt that could be changed and that the town could return to being a place where people feel comfortable visiting.

“I remember when the town was bustling and sadly it is not that way at the moment, the reasons for that are complex.

“The level of anti-social behaviour and issues with begging, drug taking and drug dealing is a factor that keeps people away from St Austell.

“People have said they would never take their families to St Austell as they don’t want to expose their kids to that. That is very sad.

“I have to got to believe and have hope that we can stop that and stop the frustration and the two steps forward two steps back problem.

“I am absolutely determined that we can address these issues and get back to a place where people feel safe.”

Steve Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay

Cornwall Council was asked to respond to Mr Double’s comments but has not yet replied.

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