RESIDENTS fear the siting of a new bench will “lead to trouble and constant problems" with antisocial behaviour and drugs.

The installation of a bench near the bridge at Sweatford Meadows sparked heated discussions during a meeting of Fordingbridge Town Council on Wednesday night (November 2) at the town hall.

One member of the public spoke of the issues around the meadow near the allotments but said there had been some “great work” done including the creation of paths, cutting down of the meadow and also a new community orchard, which he hoped would “alleviate a problem related to yobs congregating, smoking and dealing drugs” and also setting fires.

But he said they had “grave” concerns about putting a bench near the bridge and questioned: “Who made the decision to put it there? Where is the consultation with the locals that live near the bridge and do the people that made the decision really understand the implications.”

He told councillors that he had lived in that area for a number of years and there had been issues with "drug dealing, noise, the smell of drugs and abusive behaviour to senior citizens who are afraid to move past”. He said reports had been made to the police. 

It was believed the issues were under control at the moment but the residents were concerned that siting a bench could trigger problems and cause groups to congregate there.

“We don’t want the bench it will lead to trouble and constant problems on the bridge,” one resident said.

Mayor, Cllr Anna Wilson, said: “The problem here is not about the bench. The problem is about antisocial behaviour and drug taking and drug dealing.”

In response, one of the residents replied: “We have an issue with the bench. You made the decision to put the bench there.”

Cllr Wilson told the meeting that the decision to put in a new bench, which is not yet in place, came after a request was made to the town council by several members of the public. 

She reiterated the problems over antisocial behaviour and drugs were a matter for the police and added that the town council had been told that officers were aware of problems and urged all incidents to be reported.

After a plea from the residents to have further discussions, it was agreed that it would be tabled for discussion by councillors at another meeting.