‘Zone’ to cut down nuisance activity

PART of a popular town centre car park has been painted green and transformed into a “respect zone” in a ground-breaking bid to tackle anti-social behaviour.

The zone – the first in Suffolk – has been created at the Ipswich Street car park in Stowmarket, next to the Regal Theatre, and it is hoped neighbours will benefit from the scheme.

Starting this week, anyone using the car park will find that half of the spaces will be painted green and signs will be displayed to remind users to take extra care and respect nearby residents by keeping the noise down and not dropping litter.

Police have said there will be a “zero-tolerance” approach to anti-social behaviour in Stowmarket’s respect zone, which has been based on a successful project in Dereham in Norfolk, where trouble stopped completely.

John Spitzer, Mid Suffolk District Council’s community safety manager, and Jenny Treacher, the West Suffolk Community Partnership’s anti-social behaviour co-ordinator, worked together to organise the scheme.

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Mr Spitzer said: “The respect zone is aimed at those who use the car park to meet their friends and hang out, rather than shoppers or residents.

“While those people may not intend to cause trouble, the council and police do receive complaints about nuisance behaviour in this car park.

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“The respect zone doesn’t ban people from the car park – but it does remind them there are others nearby, and to respect their right to live and work without being disturbed by noisy, rowdy behaviour or criminality.”

Sgt Neil Paterson, of the Stowmarket Safer Neighbourhood Team, said: “With the paint and the signs, there will be no excuse for anyone behaving anti-socially or disorderly as people can clearly see what effect they are having on others nearby.

“We will patrol the respect zone and anyone found to be committing any offence there will be firmly dealt with, as any form of anti-social behaviour is unacceptable.

“With its proximity to the town centre, the car park is also used by people visiting the pubs and clubs, so officers will be on-hand to speak to those enjoying a night out to ensure they stay safe and any alcohol-related anti-social behaviour, damage or violence can be nipped in the bud.”

The work is being funded by the West Suffolk Community Safety Partnership under the Staysafe initiative, a partnership approach to tackling anti-social behaviour and disorder.

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