Friday, November 23, 2007

Colwyn Bay - Drugs needle exchange vending machine opposition in Colwyn Bay

ast Updated: Wednesday, 21 November 2007, 12:04 GMT 
Drugs needle exchange opposition
Colwyn Bay town centre
Businesses in Colwyn Bay fear they would suffer loss of trade
Businesses could be hit if a plan for a needle exchange machine at the back of a town's police station is given the go-ahead, an inquiry has been told.Conwy councillor Chris Hughes said there was widespread opposition to the machine at Colwyn Bay with 400 people signing a petition.
Alan Evans, for North Wales Police, acknowledged the plan had an element of the fear of the unknown about it.
The inquiry at Llandudno finished on Wednesday.
Sixty three letters of objection have also been lodged against the plan.
The inquiry was told the county of Conwy has 372 registered drug users who use needles to inject class A drugs like heroin and amphetamine.
 I would not park my car in the area for fear it would be broken into 
Chris Hughes, Conwy councillor
It was hoped that the machine would cut down on the number of addicts who contract blood borne diseases, like HIV and Hepatitis B and C through sharing needles, and other drug paraphernalia.
Several pharmacies provide a needle exchange service in the area, but North Wales Police wants to providing a vending machine for registered addicts to collect needles, and to dispose of old ones safely.
Conwy council's planning committee rejected the planning application earlier this year.
The council said the exchange would impact on the amenities in the area around the police station - where there is a theatre, youth club and an education centre used by vulnerable young people on the edge of a busy car park.
They also said there was a fear there would be an increase in anti-social behaviour and that the location was inappropriate because it was part of the Colwyn Bay conservation area.
Mr Hughes told the inquiry: "I would not park my car in the area for fear it would be broken into."
'Strong feelings'
Alan Evans, the legal counsel for North Wales Police, asked Mr Hughes to provide hard factual evidence to back up his claims that crime would increase.
"We would readily concede that drug-related issues can raise strong feelings," he said.
"A proposal for the first needle and syringe dispensing machine in the whole of the UK has an element of the fear of the unknown about it.
But he added: "What we propose is a beneficial facility. The proposal will not give rise to any demonstrable harm."
The hearing is expected to end on Wednesday afternoon but the planning inspector's report will not be ready until the New Year.
However, Conwy council has already said that they control the right of way to the site at the back of Colwyn Bay police station, and they would not allow access to a needle vending machine there.

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