Ipswich: Street drinkers get town centre booze haven

Police and council officials have today defended a decision to allow street drinkers to use the old Peter’s Ice Cream factory in Grimwade Street.

The site has been used by street drinkers for several months – and gives police, health workers, council staff and others the chance to work with them to try to turn their lives around.

However local residents and businesses are not happy with the decision to allow the site to be used by this group – and one mother said it made her reluctant to allow her teenage daughters to visit the nearby shops.

The former ice cream factory has been in use by members of the street drinking community for several months, and Inspector Andy Mason from Suffolk police said it was agreed that it should be tolerated in this location.

He said: “The owner of the land was happy about the street drinkers using the area, and we have said that so long as they are not causing a nuisance to anyone else we will not try to stop them there.

“There are rules – they have to behave in an orderly way and we don’t want them all leaving together at the end of the day.”

The fact that they all gathered in the same place meant it was possible for workers from drug and alcohol groups to work with them – and they had had considerable success.

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Several of the street drinkers had been found places on residential rehabilitation schemes and were working hard to return to “normal” society.

It was also useful to know that the street drinkers were gathering in one place – before it was available to them the drinkers would gather in up to 12 different places around the town.

Insp Mason added: “There was a problem near St Matthew’s School which was not good for the children and outside the former Odeon cinema.

“Now they come to the site in Grimwade Street – and there is a zero tolerance approach to street drinking throughout the rest of the town centre. If anyone sees any problem, contact us and we will deal with it.”

A spokesman for Ipswich council said it was keen to help deal with street drinking as part of a multi-agency approach.

The site had a portable toilet and was covered by CCTV. It was locked at 8pm every night and at 5pm on Sundays.

It was not possible to see the street drinkers from the road, although the agencies were aware of concerns about the site’s proximity to the Goals soccer centre and Suffolk New College.

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