A SEASIDE beauty spot notorious for attracting randy swingers and drug addicts has become the centre of a furious row between locals and council chiefs.
Plymouth City Council in Devon has been slammed for chopping down trees on The Hoe after workers claimed they were regularly “having to clean up sex and drug paraphernalia”.
A shelter in the area is said to be a notorious hook-up spot, with one swingers' site calling it “a viable place for fun after dark”.
As a result, the council has felled surrounding palms and bushes to discourage further cases of public sex and drug abuse.
Despite this, Plymouth locals claim it will do little to fix the city's crime problem and just further harm the look of the coastline.
It comes less than two months after the same council prompted national outcry by chopping down 110 trees in the city centre. The leader of the then Tory-run council resigned over it and Labour swept to victory in the recent local elections.
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'It won't stop anything'
Local Jamie Edgar, 31, said the shelter had special memories for him as he used to meet women there – although he insists his antics there never went further than a kiss.
He said: “When I was a teenager I used to meet and kiss girls there, it was part of growing up in Plymouth.
“I think the council is wrong to cut them down – it’s not going to stop anybody doing anything, all it might do is move people further on.”
In 2020 shocked locals called cops after spotting a couple apparently having sex in broad daylight at the packed beauty spot.
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A video shows the male and female mounting each other with a third person, partially nude, nearby. One witness is heard to say: “There was no subtlety whatsoever!”
While there is no law banning sexual intercourse in public places per se, people can be prosecuted if they expose themselves to others or “outrage public decency”.
Retired dockworker Leonard McDonald, 85, who has lived in Plymouth all his life, said: “It doesn’t look as good now the trees are gone.
“I heard it was an issue with people having sex, but I’m too old for any of that.
“If there are people up here s****ing then that’s illegal – but who is enforcing the law because the police certainly aren’t. I can’t remember the last time I saw a police officer walking around up here.
“The council say they are going to replace the trees, but they will take a long time to grow back to the same size, at least 20 years. It certainly won’t be in my lifetime anyway.”
Drug-taking in street
Plymouth is the most dangerous city in Devon and saw more than 20,000 criminal incidents last year, with 3.4 per cent recorded as drug offences.
In 2021, the city recorded its highest number of drug deaths since records began in 1993, with 45 instances revealed to be drug poisoning, according to the Office of National Statistics.
The waterfront area particularly has been blighted by drug users who brazenly sniff illegal highs on the street.
Shocking CCTV footage captured last year appears to show a middle-aged man produce something from his pocket, put an implement in it and then lift it to his nostrils.
On the same night, a nine-minute brawl between two lads was also caught on camera.
One local told Plymouth Live: “We are starting to get to dread the weekends again. We know people want to have a drink and the Barbican is a great place to let off steam and enjoy yourself, but when you have people urinating around your home, screaming and shouting until 5am, smashing glasses on the cobbles, hurling rubbish about, it's not acceptable."
Damage to the environment
Despite the problems with crime and anti-social behaviour, however, locals have accused the council of “using any excuse to cut down more trees”.
College students Rhianna Britton, 16, Sidney McCabe, 17, Lucie Wafforni, 17, and Maddison Brice, 17, claim the new measures will not discourage the louts.
Rhianna said: “I think it’s a really bad move. It’s the fact they didn’t ask anybody first and just did it again.”
Sidney added: “I don’t think it will stop people doing anything, it’s just an excuse. They are just going to find another place to do it, it won’t stop anything.”
Lucie said: “It tells us as young people just how little they care about the environment, they are happy to chop down trees across the city.”
'It looks awful'
David Vallance, 68, a retired HGV driver from Torquay, Devon, said: “They have made it look awful. I don’t know why they cut them back, I would’ve thought the council learned their lesson after last time.
“They say it’s to solve anti-social behaviour problems but, I just can’t see how it’s going to do that. Everywhere has a problem with antisocial behaviour, Torquay does, but if they tried to cut down all our trees people would be furious.”
Residents also took to social media to hit out at the decision, with one saying: “How about taking steps in tackling the antisocial behaviour rather than lopping the trees down and thinking that’ll solve it?”
The council has apologised to the Hoe Neighbourhood Forum for not telling it about the work, which was undertaken last month following a decision in mid-April, before the council elections. The council stressed that new trees would be planted.
The council said: “The area around the Belvedere shelter has suffered from growing antisocial behaviour, with council officers regularly having to clean up sex and drug paraphernalia.
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“As part of our regular programme of maintenance, and following feedback from the community, including local groups, we have been keen to clean up this space on the Hoe and make it more welcoming and safe for both residents and visitors.
“We will be replacing [the palms] with planting that has improved biodiversity benefits and provides a better home to bees and bugs.”
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