IT should be a green oasis in the centre of Huddersfield.
But instead, businesses claim St Peter’s Gardens has become a magnet for anti-social behaviour.
One firm contacted the police more than 100 times in just three months.
Others claim people go to the gardens to ‘fence’ stolen goods, drink and take drugs, leaving vomit and urine in nearby streets and back alleys.
The claims have been made by Huddersfield Business and Community Group, a non-political group formed four months ago to support small businesses in the St Peter’s Street area of Huddersfield.
Following meetings with various organisations, the group is now calling on the police to implement their promised policy of zero tolerance towards anti-social behaviour in the town centre.
At a meeting on July 4 attended by business owners, the police, Kirklees councillors and drug rehabilitation centre Lifeline Kirklees, the police asked traders to report and keep a note of anti-social behaviour.
On July 11, town centre traders met with police inspector Adrian Waugh, who promised a zero tolerance approach
Huddersfield Business and Community Group has another meeting scheduled for next Monday to try and take matters forward.
SERGEANT Mandy Mellor, from Huddersfield South NPT, said: "Officers visit St Peter’s gardens several times a day to engage with any street drinkers present and seize alcohol from them.
"The area within the confines of Huddersfield ring road is a ‘no public drinking zone’ so, where appropriate, we take enforcement action, seizing alcohol and making arrests.
"From July 4 to September 7 officers have issued drinkers with 20 directions to leave and made 10 arrests. One ASBO has been given to a street drinker during this time and nine other cases are in the process of being reviewed.
"Two men have also been given an exclusion from the town centre.’’
But Sgt Mellor, pictured, added: "Street drinkers also need to be engaged with. This is a social problem and simply arresting people is not always the answer.
"Therefore, as well as enforcement activity, we work with our partners in the council, local housing organisations and drug and alcohol services such as Lifeline to put street drinkers in touch with people who can provide them with support and advice and hopefully help the drinkers with their problems.
"We work with Lifeline all the time. We work closely with them and have had a joint operation to get people engaged with them.
"The original project to improve to St Peter’s gardens was not able to go ahead because of the economic climate and cuts in funding.
"However there has been ongoing work to find a solution to the anti-social problems in the area and this has involved local businesses, Kirklees Community Safety, local councillors, the neighbourhood management group and the local business association.
"As a result there will be improvements made to the gardens in the very near future.
The Drug and Alcohol treatment service
LIFELINE service manager Clair Ashurst said if people had complaints about people who had been using the Lifeline services they could contact Lifeline directly.
She said Lifeline, a drug and alcohol treatment service, was keen to work in partnership with the police and businesses to solve any problems and she had visited several to explain the work they do. "We do take people’s concerns seriously but we have had no complaints recently,’’ she said.
"We do not accept unacceptable behaviour either outside or inside our premises and the people who use our services know that.’’
She said Lifeline provided an open, accessible service and so had to be easy to reach, which is why it was near the railway and bus stations and it was important that it remained within the town centre.
She said Lifeline attended Kirklees Council’s Neighbourhood Management Group meetings in the town centre and would be prepared to attend Huddersfield and Business Community Group meetings if invited.
The local business
INTERNATIONAL steel trader Charles Jones has offices overlooking Byram Courtyard, just yards from the Lifeline offices.
He said that over the last few years he has seen people defecating, urinating, injecting drugs and fighting from his office windows. He has photographed many of these events.
He said: "For some years we have complained to every possible party about this unacceptable conduct from these people, who are making life a misery for many businesses and people in Huddersfield town centre.
" My staff have to see this stuff every day.
"I believe the only solution is to move Lifeline outside the inner ring road.
"It seems to be the same people who are coming back, we see the same faces time and time again.’’
He said Kirklees Council had granted planning permission in 2005 for the drugs rehabilitation centre.
He added: "Kirklees Council nodded through planning consent in 2005. They did not advertise what they intended to do. If they had, everyone around here would have objected."
Because of the problems, Mr Jones has applied for a refund on his rates and is waiting to hear from a rates tribunal.
KIRKLEES councillors David Sheard and Peter McBride have been working with the traders’ group in an effort to improve St Peter’s Gardens.
Last week workmen from Kirklees’ parks and gardens department began removing bushes and trees from the gardens – and many had become overgrown.
A Kirklees council spokesman said: "The original project to improve St Peter’s Gardens was not able to go ahead because of the economic climate and cuts in funding.
"However, there has been ongoing work to find a solution to the anti-social problems in the area.’’
MARK WOOD, who owns Kirklees Guns on Lord Street, says his business has been plagued by alcoholics and drug addicts congregating in the churchyard opposite.
He revealed that two months ago one of his employees suffered a broken jaw when he was attacked by a drinker.
Mr Wood said: "It’s been a problem for years. It’s always the same people.
"They come in twice a week asking for change or to use the loo.
"The police are doing as much as they can but they have their hands tied.
"The churchyard is a lovely space on a hot day. I suppose that’s why the drinkers come.’’ Mark Lockwood, who works at H Mitchell butchers on Station Street says the business is troubled by nuisance drinkers and addicts almost daily.
Mr Lockwood said: "I stopped a disabled man being mugged across the road. I saw a pregnant woman being attacked.
"Many of them have Asbos but we see them all the time.
"The Kirklees ban on street drinking in the town centre has made no difference.
"These people don’t do anything in society at all - they're just leeches.
PAUL and Vicki Wood, are owners of The Keys restaurant in the crypt of the Parish Church.
In the last three months they have made over 100 calls to the police to report anti-social or threatening behaviour and kept a detailed log.
Mr Wood said: "The problem is getting worse. We are making up to seven or eight calls a day some days. We have unsavoury characters on our doorstep. The gardens are not safe for men to walk through, let alone women.
"There are alcoholics and drug addicts in the park and it has become a major place to fence stolen goods. It is a real den of iniquity – it is like Fagin’s Den.’’
He added: "We want the zero tolerance promised by the police to be implemented. At the moment it is very patchy. There are four police teams and it depends on who is on duty as to what is done.
"Quite often, the police are ineffectual. People hide the drink in the bushes in the park. This area is supposed to be an alcohol free zone. We are calling on the police for a concerted and consistent tough approach."
Mr Wood and some of the other businesses believe that some of the problem originates from Lifeline Kirklees, the drug rehabilitation centre in Station Street.
He added: "The drunks in the churchyard are part and parcel of the same problem.
"People are visiting Lifeline and then walking down to the park and drinking all day. Lifeline is in the wrong place."
Vicki Wood said: "We all acknowledge these people have problems which need to be dealt with.
"The problem is that as people earning a living in the town centre, we should not have to step over piles of vomit or pass people injecting in doorways on our way to work. Lifeline is in the wrong place."