Illicit sex inquiry threatens town's tourism

THE tourism industry in a village declared one of the nation's top places to live could be at risk because of illicit sexual activity, it was warned last night.

Dave Gooderham

THE tourism industry in a village declared one of the nation's top places to live could be at risk because of illicit sexual activity, it was warned last night.

A police investigation has been launched into “illicit behaviour” at a public toilet in Long Melford - last year named as one of the country's best places to live by estate agency Savills - after a string of complaints from parents from at a nearby primary school.

Appalled community leaders last night spoke of their fear that police demands to temporarily close toilets in the village could seriously hit tourism.

Melford county councillor Richard Kemp said: “I am quite appalled that a place like Long Melford has this kind of problem and that we might have to shut toilets in a village where tourism is so greatly valued and greatly needed.

“I think we should be looking at remedies other than closing the toilets. Tourism is the lifeblood of Long Melford and our shops depend on visitors coming into the village. Surely we can run some kind of surveillance on the toilets and have greater police involvement.”

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Police have confirmed they are investigating incidents in public toilets in Cordell Road - just months after the men's toilets at the Rodbridge picnic site was closed.

Sgt Elizabeth Ireland said: “The Babergh West Safer Neighbourhood Team has been aware of problems at the toilets in Cordell Road for a few months and has been carrying out additional patrols and speaking to local people and partner agencies.

“We have received complaints from members of the public, including parents of children at the nearby primary school, about illicit behaviour and offensive graffiti in the men's cubicles.

“We feel closing the toilets temporarily would discourage those who are using the toilets inappropriately. We feel the toilets would benefit from renovation, so they become fit for purpose and are no longer associated with these illicit activities.”

Linda Goodban , clerk to Long Melford Parish Council, confirmed the item was on the agenda and would be discussed by the authority tonight before a recommendation is given to Babergh District Council, which is responsible for maintaining the toilets.

She said: “I contacted the police after I received a phone call from the primary school. A grandparent had stopped to use the toilets after collecting his grandchild from school.

“He was most upset after he walked in and there was some very obvious inappropriate activity taking place in one of the cubicles. “He felt that had it been his grandchild who walked in, it would have been quite distressing for him.

“The police have suggested that in order to curb this kind of behaviour the men's toilets should be temporary closed.”

A spokesman for Babergh said the authority was aware of problems with the toilets and that council contractors had in the past passed on information to police.

“Our officers, working in partnership with the police and parish council, will look at the all the information and then decide on the best course of action in this instance,” the spokesman added.