Armley Library was packed to the rafters for a public meeting to discuss some of the problems affecting Town Street. Most of the concerns revolved around anti-social behaviour and street drinking. The Dispatch’s Lilly Marchesi was at the meeting. Here’s her report:
Armley residents say they are fed up with the amount of anti-social behaviour on their high street.
Residents and business owners are demanding action be taken to reduce street drinkers and anti-social behaviour on Town Street, with many saying they are scared to even walk to the shops.
One resident said: “I don’t feel safe bringing my grandson down Town Street. It can be very intimidating walking past large groups of men drinking and spitting on the pavement.”
Armley Library was packed out with angry locals eager to share their experiences and concerns to the panel and highlight the severity of some of the issues believed to have been made worse by the number of bookies and 24 hour off-licences in the area.
The panel included councillors Alison Lowe and Alice Smart, Chris Davies from the local policing team and Rachel Reeves, who chaired the discussion.
The meeting aimed to discuss the results of a survey held over the summer which allowed residents to say what they feel are the main problems in Armley and what they would like to see done.
More than 600 people responded and an overwhelming number highlighted anti-social behaviour as the key issue, along with no variety in shops and not enough parking.
Many residents expressed anger towards the local policing team and felt they have not been doing enough to stop people drinking in the streets.
Police officer Chis Davies said the local team have highlighted six people they believe to be the main culprits of street drinking in the area and are in the process of issuing them with injunctions, which he hoped would come into force from today (Monday).
The Dispatch reported last week how efforts were being made to introduce a cumulative impact policy around Town Street, which would make it easier for the council to turn down fresh licensing application and regulate the number of premises and opening hours.
Mark Law, chief executive of BARCA Leeds, said the community development organisation had also spent three months working with the police trying to engage with street drinkers and give them a pathway to treatment.
However, despite their best efforts, Mr Law said:
“Unfortunately people still choose to drink on the street and Armley is not the only place with this issue, it’s a problem across the city.”
Retired resident, Elaine Holdsworth, 63, said she is constantly on the phone to the police reporting incidents right outside her house, but said she is frustrated by an often slow response. She added:
“Drinkers know the police will pour their beer cans away, so now they just use bottles of pop instead. We’re fighting a losing battle – the problem is police resources.”
Councillor Alison Lowe also raised the issue of 24-hour off-licenses, with one already on Town Street and another in the pipeline. She urged residents to join her in opposing the license applications at a council meeting later this month.
Armley-born Helen Roebuck, 29, was moved to tears when describing the traumatic experiences she faces nearly every day walking around Armley. She said there is glass everywhere, cigarette butts on the floor, human excrement and sometimes even people laying on the floor incapacitated. She said:
“Growing up this used to be a great place to live and there was money spent on developing the area once, but now a small number of people are ruining it for us.”
One resident even shouted that people are ashamed to say they are from Armley.
Ms Reeves agreed that moving forward there would be an action group set up to try and deal with some of the problems.
There were also positive discussions about the potential for having a monthly market along Town Street to bring the community together and give people a ‘reason to visit’.
Ms Reeves hopes to hold a progress meeting at the end of next month.
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