A city centre garden has been fenced off and security guards put on the gate to combat rising levels of drug dealing, drug use and threatening behaviour.
A security guard being threatened at knifepoint in Brighthelm Gardens two weeks ago was the “tipping point” which led managers to install the nine-foot fence around its perimeter.
Management at the Brighthelm Centre, which owns the gardens, has tried various options to combat the problems in the last three years, including hiring security guards and installing high quality CCTV – but nothing had worked.
The fencing went up on Monday, and since then centre manager Katie Love says her tenants, a mix of community groups and charities, feel much safer.
However, the sudden appearance of the stark fencing and restricted access has sparked concern the use of the gardens will be lost to the community.
A spokesman for the North Laine Community Association said: “We are not aware that Brighthelm engaged with the community before taking this action, which resulted in much local confusion and consternation.
“We hope that the closing of the garden will be a temporary measure.
“We do understand and sympathise with the problems of antisocial behaviour that the Brighthelm Centre is experiencing, but we are concerned about the public’s access to this much-loved and visited community garden being restricted and a very pleasant and much-used pedestrian route from North Laine to the town centre being cut off.
“We are concerned that closing the garden will simply magnify the problem of antisocial behaviour in the surrounding streets, for example Frederick Gardens, just opposite.
“We would like to see more effective policing of antisocial behaviour and drug dealing in North Laine and the town centre.”
Ms Love said she had spoken at length to tenants and consulted with managers at similar city centre green spaces, such as St Nicholas Rest Gardens and Pavilion Gardens.
“The knife incident two weeks ago was my tipping point. The security team can’t manage an open space, and I have a responsibility to keep everyone safe. I can’t put people in that position.
“I’m really scared of more and more dangerous things happening, that the public are going to get injured.
“There’s been a sense of permissiveness where they don’t seem to be deterred by anything. Police move them on but there won’t be any consequences beyond that.
“There’s a sense of ownership. I was told by one person that they have been here for longer than us. If you’re confident enough to show a knife to a security guard, what happens next?”
The centre’s chair of trustees John Lane said: “Over the past few years we have seen increasing antisocial and dangerous behaviour in our gardens, which have now reached an unacceptable level.
“We have tried a range of measures to curb this situation but none have been sufficiently effective. As the gardens are private land we are fully responsible for the safety of our staff, tenants and visitors, a responsibility which we take very seriously and is of paramount importance to us.
“This increasing level of behaviour has led to our decision to install temporary fencing. These measures have been implemented with support from Sussex Police and Brighton and Hove City Council.
“The garden is not locked totally, as it is accessible via the pedestrian gate next to reception. Currently we have short term security in place to help implement the changes and dissuade the anti-social, unacceptable behaviour.
“The gardens remain open but with fewer entrances and exits, which will be opened for our popular garden events.
“We are grateful for the feedback we have received, all of which we are compiling, to enable us to gather evidence of how important this space is to so many people.”
The security guards currently posted on the door will be there for an unspecified amount of time, until the centre is confident the drug users who had taken over the gardens have moved on.
The centre will monitor how effective the fencing is before making a decision on a longer term solution – but it is unlikely the gardens’ many entrances will all be reopened.
Considering the rampant and uncontrolled drug dealing and open drug use in this city with NO Police visibility AT ALL – EVER I’m not surprised this has been done.
If you walk through the city its rife with low-life scampering from place to place trying to find another fix or scrounge/steal the price.
There is NEVER any Police visibility.
COME-ON our the new City Council – Sort it out – Challenged the Police to do their job. Stop this crazy ‘city of sanctuary’ rubbish that been abused by every blow-in no-hopper discarded by their own home town…
Yeh thanks, they have all now decided that Queens Park is the place to go – we have had nothing but trouble from them now taking their drugs in our foyer and breaking in and stealing anything they can find. Please Sussex Police HELP us.
It will be interesting to see a follow up to how the council decide to manage the city centre in conjunction with police presence, if anything.
Clearly a lot of people aren’t encouraged by the currently level of police presence.
There are very few green spaces/ public gardens in the North Laine area, this being one of them and it is a shame if access is being restricted and virtually closed to a community garden area beloved by locals and a thoroughfare between North Laine and the town centre.. Better policing especially after dark would surely help deter the druggie/alkei low life element (same applies to the Pavilion Gardens).
The ‘pocket park’ off Providence Place /London Road is another place where dealing is rife. Thank You, Greens!
Thank you Conservatives you mean?
Before you lament what it was like you eat your lunch there for half hour a day, maybe think what it’s like for those working there. Unable to leave your bike outside because it will be stolen or dameaged, damage to your car,, dameage to the compost bins, the community veg patch, having to constantly give first aid to people out of it or overdosed, the two really sweet housekeepers having to go out every day and pick up needles, before you can safely eat your sarnie. Not being able to use the fire escape from the basement because people use it as a toilet, sleep there or pass out there.. the food market stopped during the pandemic – why would they come back. I worked there for 7 years and it was bad enough, over the past couple of years it’s got much worse, imagine leaving your office in the dark months and being scared to walk the 30 yards to you car every night. No one Party is to blame from the council- it’s been a minority for years…. However one national Political party is to blame for reducing police numbers to below safe levels and cutting council budgets so they can’t cope. Well done to the Brighthelm … maybe this will mean you get the help you need to tackle the issue
All part of the Green Gift!
Remember, we are the City of Sanctuary
Back when the space was used for Street Diner every Friday it turned from somewhere to avoid to somewhere safe where people wanted to be. Since that went away it’s been somewhere to avoid.
Rather than putting up fences, a more permanent solution might be to instead encourage “good” use of the space with events like Street Diner.
Good point Matt, I’ve a firm believer in putting positive aspects to space and people will respect their area more.
There is currently a monthly makers market in the summer (next one 10th June) which is very similar to street diner concept of pop up local stalls. It’s great! I agree with your comments and hope people will still support this much loved event and the makers to allow more positivity in the area.
It’s been a struggle for them to continue, and have reduced last years bi monthly events to just monthly this year, there has been VERY little support from the police who seem to prefer to turn a blind eye.
Maybe we should ask what Katy Bourne, the Sussex PCC, is actually for. The police precept gets hiked and all of us council taxpayers are forced to pay it, but we see less and less effective policing in B&H. A Sussex-wide PCC is not the answer to anything in B&H, because B&H is not typical Sussex. I don’t actually agree with PCCs anyway and have never voted in such an election, but ‘county-wide’ doesn’t cut it at all. There should be more localised panels or whatever, who could – and possibly might, hopefully – get to grips with the specific problems in specific places.
There have been some documentaries about B&H police, which have obviously been edited by the TV companies concerned to make ‘good TV’, but I have been totally embarrassed by them and the bad impression they must convey to viewers.
Yet another horrible legacy of the Greens, who made no attempt whatsoever to stop the rampant antisocial behaviour that has led to this.
My home town, was always shabby, seedy and full of the weird and wonderful (fantastic!), now however its just filthy, dangerous, sketchy and skanky.
The Pavilion gardens, Brighthelm, the Level are all lawless, dangerous cesspits. . . Yes I sound like an old fart (I am). I’m done.
The Labour Party have a majority. If they can’t stop anti-social behaviour in town centres like other councils seem to be able to do what hope is there for managing the country at the next election.
Brighton gave them a mandate to govern and for change to halt the decline in the City. Now they need to do it or resign. I totally empathise with this organisation. Yesterday, outside the pavilion there were a bunch of junkies, drinking in a large groups and trying all their clothes all over the benches. As a woman I felt quite frightened walking past them and this is meant to be a tourism centre.
We are on a pathway for the city to be turning into downtown San Francisco if the police and council do not start taking accountability for looking after the town centre.
The election was TWO weeks ago and they don’t take power until the councis annual general meeting next Thursday!
And the council isn’t responsible for the police (or lack of them)
That is correct, Chris. I was having a look at the PCC website yesterday and last week’s performance and accountability meeting between the PCC and the Sussex Chief Constable was cancelled ‘because of illness’ – next one in June. Hopefully, after they do take power, someone will make it a top priority to engage with these persons (who do have the authority and wherewithal to do something about all this, if they have the will). The PCC is supposed to listen to residents’ concerns and raise them with the CC.
Chichester council pays for City patrols and they have a no bums on pavement policy. Towns like Worthing and Chichester also use a firm that removes graffiti in 24 hours. The council has also been responsible for housing large numbers of junkies in the town centre. Of course it is partially the police’s responsibility but the Labour Party now they run the council have to take accountability too for the deterioration in Brighton which is making the police’s job that much more difficult.
No one is expecting them to sort it out in two weeks but one month from now they could sort out begging and rough sleeping in parks and graffiti removal if there was a will. Other councils manage them and they should twin up with them to understand how other councils manage it.
Yes, they could, in a month from now, or even a fortnight, but as they are not officially in power yet, they can’t do it right this minute. Why don’t you wait until after the council AGM, which is just days away, and then see what they do – if anything. If they do nothing, then we are all perfectly entitled to bombard councillors with complaints etc. Not rocket science to know how this could be sorted out – tougher bye-laws, proper enforcement of those bye-laws and proper policing.
Joshua you should have voted Conservative, then your statement might have meant something. Anyway i’m sure???? Labour will sort it out. Or they might just blame the Conservative government and do nothing i suppose. Poor old Brighton, [again].
I agree Conservative and Lib Dem run cities don’t seem have these level of human detritus making it impossible to live and work safely and pleasantly in them. Just drive to neighbouring towns and the contrast is stark. I went to Worthing yesterday and no one hasseling you for money. No junkie lying on the pavement. Go to Tunbrisge wells and you never see anything like this.
No city or town should have to put up with this detritus, Sarah, whichever political administration is in charge. It’s a failure by local politicians, failure by council officials and failure by policing. It’s been allowed to happen through apathy and incompetence on all their parts. B&H is obviously known as a total soft touch by such people, many of whom are probably not locals, so we await with bated breath (but I’m not holding it) an urgent and effective initiative by the new administration to sort it out – pronto.
I meant to add, Sarah, that this is all part and parcel of the general decay that has been going on for a long time here. We all know and complain about bin collections, recycling, weeds, graffiti etc, and sometimes politicians even mention anti-social behaviour, but we see no mass protests about this kind of thing. The protests are all about other things, so perhaps it’s time for the silent majority (i.e. normal residents) to stand up and be heard. And no, I’m not advocating that we all scream, shout, demonstrate and march on the town hall, which is a largely useless exercise, except that I’ve just had another one of Southern Water’s charm-offensive emails, which mentions a lot of positive things they think they’re doing but not burst water mains or the dire sewage problems, so something may be getting through to them), but we do need to get on the backs of our councillors if, when this administration takes office formally, they ignore the issues you and others have been talking about and say it is just about bins etc. It isn’t – overall, it’s about surrendering the city to rubbish in all its guises.
“Tough on crime – tough on the causes of crime” – did that really mean after all these years “fence off a garden” ?