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Residents reject drug-dealing tag

By Peter Harris


Two residents of council-owned flats in Newark have claimed in court that the block is a hive of drug use and dealing.

Stephen Bills (41) will be sentenced for shoplifting on Friday.

At an earlier hearing when Bills admitted the offence, Mr George Osbourne told Newark magistrates that Bills’ heroin habit was down to £10 a day.

He could afford it on his benefits so had no need to steal, but he lived at Chatham Court where drug use and dealing were rife, and so was temptation.

“People are constantly knocking on his door and asking for needles and other kit that they need,” said Mr Osbourne.

Steven Allen (20) who was prosecuted by Newark and Sherwood District Council and received a 12-month conditional discharge for dumping unwanted furniture at Chatham Court when he left, claimed living there left him addicted to cocaine.

The phone box in front of the flats is said to be where the calls are placed to the dealers to arrange supply.

In 2003 an Advertiser photographer took pictures of people living homeless in its stairwells.

In 2004 the Advertiser reported that residents of neighbouring Southend Avenue were fortifying their homes against burglars and thieves from the blocks.

However, the secretary of the Chatham Court Tenants and Residents’ Association, Miss Stephanie Dickinson (25) who has lived in her council flat for 13 months, disputes the suggestion the flats have problems today.

She pointed out that most of the tenants were respectable, honest people.

Miss Dickinson said she was aware of cannabis use but said she did not know of dealers living in the flats.

Miss Dickinson, who does not work as she has serious back-related problems, said: “I am aware of many people that smoke cannabis but there aren’t any dealers here at all.

“I have never seen any needles and I don’t know of problems with heroin or anything like that.”

Miss Dickinson said the only problems tenants drew to the attention of the association were with the blocks themselves, which were becoming old and tired.

“Some people here talk to each other, others don’t, but that’s how people are,” she said.

“I think some people seek publicity as a way of moving off. I want to move for medical reasons as I sometimes have to use a wheelchair or crutches on my bad days, like today, and I am in a first floor flat.”

The leader of Newark and Sherwood District Council, Mr Tony Roberts, whose ward includes Chatham Court, believes there is a problem.

Mr Roberts said: “We have known there are problems on Chatham Court for some time.

“I understand it is extremely difficult for us to let property on Chatham Court.

“I know the police have been involved and we have used portable CCTV there in the past.

“If any of our tenants are prosecuted for drug dealing then they are tenants of ours no longer.

“For people trying to come off drugs being surrounded by them doesn’t help.”

The housing director with Newark and Sherwood Homes, the company that manages the flats on behalf of the council, Mr Fin McElhinney, said: “Where we can gather evidence action will be taken against tenancies and our current position is that we are gathering evidence.

“We are working with the tenants and residents’ association on Chatham Court to support our young tenants.”

Sergeant Steve O’Neill, whose beat team is responsible for the area, appealed for anyone with information about drug dealing or other crimes to contact Newark police or call Crimestoppers.

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