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No laughing matter

September 5, 2018 10:02 AM
By Jonny Mayner

Local Liberal Democrats discover evidence of drug-taking while cleaning up Sutton Park beauty spot.

On Sunday 19th August a group of campaigners from Sutton Coldfield Liberal Democrats spent another productive morning clearing up litter in the area around the Wyndley Gate entrance to Sutton Park. The clean-up comes only a few months after the team's last visit to the area.

In just over an hour, a handful of volunteers collected more than half a dozen bags of rubbish, along with an electric heater, a dustbin lid and what appeared to be the bumper of a small car. Walmley & Minworth campaigner David Cooke said: "I was surprised by how much rubbish had accumulated again in a relatively short period of time. Once again we found not only food wrappers, bottles, cans, and disposable coffee cups from the nearby Costa, but also evidence of larger items being deliberately dumped. We found the rear shelf from a car boot on the grass near the leisure centre car park too though we left that in a prominent spot, in case its owner retraced their journey looking for it."

The team made a more worrying discovery too. Several dozen empty nitrous oxide cannisters. Nitrous oxide, better known as the "laughing gas" that a dentist might administer, has long been used as a recreational drug. It also has legitimate uses in the food industry, such as in the process for making whipped cream. But according to a crime survey in 2013/14, nitrous oxide was the second most popular recreational drug among young people in the UK. The drug was supposed to have been made illegal to supply under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, but uncertainty around exemptions for medical products have led to at least one judge dismissing a case brought against individuals accused of illegal supply. Jonny Mayner, current Chair of the Sutton Coldfield and Erdington Liberal Democrats explained, "We found a number of small nitrous oxide cannisters, or whippets, scattered in the bushes, and a very large number around the car park by Wyndley Pool, by the Athletics Club building. They appeared to have come from a box clearly intended for use as kitchen supplies. What's most worrying is that we clearly have some folk in the town, possibly young people, risking their health and a criminal record, all within yards of a beauty spot frequented by families with young children. We've had reports from members of these cannisters being spotted elsewhere in the town too."

There were more pleasant discoveries however, in the form of several Smilestones. The Smilestone craze sees children (and those simply young or creative at heart) painting small stones and leaving them in the park for others to discover. If you find one you can either keep them or rehide them for others to find. There's even a Facebook group for people to share pictures of the stones they've painted or found.

Sutton Trinity campaigner and Parliamentary Spokesperson, Jenny Wilkinson, commented, "The team was keen to revisit the spot around Wyndley to see how it was faring after our last effort. We are very lucky, as Sutton residents, to have this beautiful park on our doorstep, and it's essential that we take good care of it. All of us, as a community, can play a part in that. I hope to speak soon with the local police about what the team found to see if there is anything more that the community can be doing on the issue of drug use in and around the park."

The Lib Dems are keen to encourage more residents to actively participate in cleaning up the park and town. They suggest that walkers could carry a small bag with them to hold picked up litter, keeping the park and surrounding area tidy and themselves healthy at the same time, as well as allowing the paid park staff more time to work on essential maintenance. The team say they are looking for new challenges, so if there is a part of the park or the town that you think needs a tidy-up, they would like to hear from you (email info@suttonanderdingtonlibdems.org.uk or reach out to @SCELibDems on Twitter or Facebook).