‘Lout’ warning for new square

Bideford’s ‘jewel’ is being tarnished by drunks, warn town councillors.

BIDEFORD’S new-look Jubilee Square is being taken over by gangs of drunken yobs before it is even built, town councillors have warned.

They say the “jewel” of Bideford, currently undergoing a complete revamp to provide a welcoming gateway to the main shopping areas, is in danger of being lost to intimidating foul-mouthed louts hanging around the square and urinating in the street.

Speaking at the annual meeting on Thursday night, one councillor even described how he and his wife had become targets themselves during a recent incident.

Members also challenged local police officers to provide more cover for the area.

Councillor Anne Brenton said: “The square is becoming a focal point for a group of half-drunk burly young men intent on intimidating people in the town going about their business. It’s becoming a problem.”

Cllr Mary Fulford added: “We don’t seem to be able to do anything about it. It’s cost a fair penny to get Jubilee Square going and where are the police?

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“It’s supposed to be the jewel of Bideford, somewhere to showcase the town. But all we see is a whole lot of louts pi**ing up against the walls.

Cllr David Howell said it was quite common for the Cooper Street area to be used as a public toilet during the daylight hours.

He said: “It’s been handed over to drunken yobs. When we take people around on the heritage tours it can be embarrassing.”

Mr Howell described how he and his wife were intimidated by a group of around eight men in their mid-20s as they walked past the square to a restaurant in Cooper Street.

“The language was atrocious and two of them were peeing against a wall, fully exposed at 8.15 on a Saturday evening.

“They thought they’d have a bit of fun and one of the men ran up behind us and touched my wife of the shoulder. We looked for a police officer but there wasn’t one around.”

Mr Howell said he had reported the incident the following morning but subsequent investigations revealed it was not picked up by the square’s roaming CCTV camera.

“I asked why there was no one in the area at the time and was told that it was down to the scarcity of resources in Devon and Cornwall Police.

“There are simply not enough policemen here to patrol one of the main areas of the town.”

Fending councillors’ criticism, neighbourhood beat officer, PC John Wright said: “We haven’t given up on the streets of Bideford.

“We all police with a conscience and do it to the best of our abilities but we are scarce on the ground at the moment.

“The area is covered by CCTV but unfortunately CCTV doesn’t cover every inch of Bideford for 24 hours.”

Bideford sector inspector Shaun Kenneally said police were always seeking to put police officers out on a Friday and Saturday night.

He said: “Saturday night is always our most demanding period and on occasions that demand outstrips resources.

“It doesn’t happen very often but there are times when officers may have to leave the area to deal with something on the caveat that they return as soon as they are able to do so.

“We do have to move our chess pieces around, more so than ever because of the recent cuts.”

He said police had applied to enforce Section 30 dispersal orders for the area from June to September.

The legislation has been used with success in the past, most recently during last Christmas. It gives officers the ability to eject troublemakers before problems escalate and anyone removed from the area could be arrested if they return within a 24-hour time period.

Insp Kenneally said: “Bideford has a busy night time economy and 99 per cent of the people who go out do so to enjoy themselves responsibly. Like in any other town there is a small minority who ruin it for the majority.

“Where we do see anti-social behaviour we try to deal with it as robustly as we can.”

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