E&E | Exeter council to cut back tree after ‘nightmare neighbour’ complaints over rough sleepers

E&E

 

31 January 2017

Exeter council to cut back tree after ‘nightmare neighbour’ complaints over rough sleepers

by Alex Richards

A group of residents have spoken of their ‘nightmare’ ordeal involving a group of rough sleepers under a nearby tree – which is set to be cut back by Exeter council.

Over the past few years, individuals have been congregating and sleeping rough underneath a giant conifer in the once-tranquil graveyard of St Thomas Church, Cowick Street.

Now Exeter City Council will chop lower branches off the towering tree, in an effort to expose them to police patrols on Cowick Street.

Anguished neighbours claim to have witnessed evidence of prostitution, drug use and dealing at the shrouded spot – just metres from many of their windows.

The group has also allegedly intimidated residents, by shining torches at their windows and approaching family members.

All residents involved in this story have chosen to remain anonymous, as they are worried about repercussions from those who have been known to use the spot.

One resident, from Newcastle, lives nearby with his partner and their baby. They say the problems began around two or three days after they moved in.

He has since been in regular contact with the Devon & Cornwall Police regarding the threatening and shocking behaviour from the group under the tree.

And he says it is clear an individual was, at one point, ‘selling their body’ under the tree.

One night, at around 3am, they woke to a woman screaming and shouting: “Where is my £100, I just gave you sex.”

The resident said: “I cannot believe the homelessness and drugs problem in Exeter. In Newcastle the problem does not appear half as bad – it’s so concentrated here.

“We’ll see how it goes but we might have to move in June if it isn’t sorted. Especially with the little one around.”

He added: “Police are pretty limited in what they can do.”

Another nearby resident, a woman who lives on her own, moved into the area in 2015. She says being alone makes her feel more vulnerable.

She said: “It became so intrusive, there is evidence of drug abuse and loud foul language. It went on all night from about 10.30pm.

“One night it went on until 1pm the following day.

“It was distressing and intimidating. Our neighbours moved soon after the trouble began, and it definitely played a part in their decision to leave.

“Nobody should have to deal with it.”

“It is a graveyard, which in itself should be treated with respect.”

She welcomes the council’s decision to cut down branches from the lower half of the tree.

“It will become less of a canopy and police will be able to see them under the tree when going past.”

A City Council spokesman said: “Following complaints of anti-social behaviour, the police have asked us to trim the lower parts of the tree so that any ASB is visible and not concealed.

“This work is scheduled to be carried out soon.”

On his Facebook page St Thomas PCSO, PoliceCommunity Support Officer Will Malcolm added: “We’ve had reports over a month or two about people sleeping under this tree and up to no good.

“Local residents are worried, so got in touch with ECC to see if we can prune the conifer back. All agreed and in their diary to be done.

Further reading:
Read the article on the E&E website
Read the article on the E&E Facebook page

 

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