New bid to open safe space for drug users in the city

Used needles and syringes along with other drug taking items found discarded close to a public car p

Used drug needles on the ground - Credit: James Bass

Renewed calls are being made to create a safe space for drug users to help addicts get support and clean-up areas littered with needles.

There are currently unofficial mobile drug consumption spaces in Bristol and Glasgow and there are more than 100 safer drug consumption facilities in operation around the world, including in Switzerland, Denmark, France, Australia, Canada and Portugal.

Manned by health workers, the clean areas allow people to put needles and other drug paraphernalia in bins and can get advice from professionals on where to get help in terms of coming off illegal substances.

Ash Haynes, who represents the Green Party for Thorpe Hamlet on Norwich City Council 

Ash Haynes, who represents the Green Party for Thorpe Hamlet on Norwich City Council - Credit: Sophie Wyllie

Members of the Green Party want a safe space opened in the city centre and Ash Haynes, Thorpe Hamlet city councillor, said: "It is good for the safety of people taking drugs. If they take drugs on a stairwell or on the street they are vulnerable.

"It is also about encouraging people who take drugs to get help. They need to feel they are not going to be judged when taking drugs. It is about finding out why they are addicts.

"The real issue is ensuring places are kept safe and people are looking after themselves."

She added there would be a cost for the manning of the spaces but that would take away the cost of policing drug taking and emergency care.

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Ms Haynes added the spaces were equally important because it stopped people being fearful of witnessing drug taking on their doorsteps.

She said green spaces and parks, including Old Library Wood and around Mousehold, where families brought children to play were common areas for drug abuse.

The Green Party added people living in the city centre including the Thorpe Hamlet and Mancroft wards, Dereham Road, north city and Anglia Square, backed a safe space.

She said there was also cross-party support city councillors when the idea was proposed and backed in 2020.

Bill Borrett, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for adult social care.

Bill Borrett, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for adult social care. - Credit: Matthew Usher

It was not backed by Norfolk County Council in February this year with Bill Borrett, cabinet member for adult social care, saying: "The council is committed to reducing the number of drug-related deaths.

"Our public health commissioners follow national policy, therefore we would not support consumption rooms because they are not supported by the Home Office."

Backing for safe space

A recovering addict has backed the idea of a safe space for drug users.

Kay Arnold, 30 , from Dereham, who is a recovering drug addict who was helped by the Recovery Suppor

Kay Arnold, 30 , from Dereham, who is a recovering drug addict who was helped by the Recovery Support Programme atThe Next Steps recovery hub, run by the Matthew Project, on Oak Street, Norwich. Picture: Neil Didsbury - Credit: Neil Didsbury

Kay Arnold, 33, who last took cocaine four-and-a-half years ago, received rehabilitation treatment through Norwich-based Hebron Trust and Matthew Project and is now a group facilitator for the Hebron Trust.

She said: "It would be brilliant to have a safe space for drug users to go. It would also stop the public from seeing it. If you are really poorly with addiction it would help you get support and not be discriminated against. It could potentially stop people taking drugs and get them help. Addiction is a lonely place."

Miss Arnold, who first took cocaine aged 17, said a safe space for women only would be good because it would stop potential manipulation coercion of them."