Councillors in Shirebrook are working with Sports Direct to educate Polish workers about British drinking laws after residents say they feel threatened by gangs of men drinking in the street.
Residents have complained of groups of mainly Eastern European men who drink openly in the street and leave cans and bottles littering the area around the market place.
There have also been reports of men urinating in public.
A clash of cultures has been blamed for the behaviour which is driving a wedge between communities who otherwise live and work together harmoniously.
Bolsover council has appointed a multi-lingual cohesion worker to talk to East European communities and a Direct Public Policing Order (DPPO) makes it a criminal offence to drink “irresponsibly” in public.
But members of the public are calling for more police action to make them feel safer.
The town has seen huge changes in its culture since thousands of Eastern European workers moved to the area in the main to work at the huge Sports Direct warehouse, owned by billionaire businessman and Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley.
A rainy Friday morning in Shirebrook and the marketplace is empty apart from a fruit stall, a fishmongers and a burger van.
Everyone we spoke to described the vast majority of their new neighbours as “lovely hard working people”.
But there are huge concerns about gangs of male drinkers who pack into the market place area and make women and pensioners feel intimidated, residents claimed.
Shirebrook butcher David Straw described how most days groups of men sat on walls and benches and under the trees in the marketplace area drinking alcohol.
He said: “It’s frightened a lot of old people from coming down the street these days. They feel intimidated.
“They sit on the wall all day drinking. We clear up cans and bottles every morning and it is all Polish booze.
“There was trouble before about it but it is a lot worse now. There are groups of six on the walls, or sitting under the trees in the market.
“One man has been sleeping rough outside the bank.
“Another was passed out on a wall and we dialled 101. According to the police he wasn’t being intimidating but I think he was.
He called for more police to stop them drinking on the street.
Mr Straw added: “It’s also the mess they leave behind, cans and vodka bottles and peeing up the side of walls in public.
“There are good people among them. I have nothing against Polish shops - I would rather see a Polish shop than an empty shop. But they should abide by our law - we have to abide by it.
“Over the past three or four years it has gradually got worse, there is no policing.”
A Shirebrook woman, aged 53, who did not want to be named told Chad: “I have nothing against them but it is frightening.
“On Bank Holiday Sunday I came to go to the bank and the market place was full of men drinking.
“There are a lot more men than women. You feel like you have to put your head down and it shouldn’t be like that in your own town.”
Bolsover council, working with Derbyshire police say they are aware of the public drinking which they describe as a “clash of cultures”.
Coun Brian Murray-Carr, who until the last election was Bolsover District Council cabinet member for community safety, said; “I had direct involvement with the increase in the number of Eastern Europeans into our community that work at Sports Direct, many of whom have settled quite harmoniously in our communities.
“We set up a community liaison worker about six weeks ago. It is helpful someone can speak their language fluently.
“Drinking in public is part of the culture of the Polish and Lithuanians.”
“The Direct Public Policing Order (DPPO) is to deal with irresponsible drinking. It empowers a uniformed police officer to confiscate alcohol from the person drinking irresponsibly and ask the person to leave the area and not to come back.”
He said the council had successfully engaged particularly with Sports Direct over almost four years now doing community engagement initiatives in the Sports Direct canteen, to educate them about English laws and cultures including alcohol consumption.
He added: “It is not easy to change this behaviour given the language barrier, but we have made considerable headway with regular patrols with the safer neighbourhood team and Community Action Network Rangers.”
Prominent notices on lighting columns and multi-lingual signage were in the area to make people aware of what the constraints are on irresponsible drinking and the litter problem.
He said the situation was improving although there were hiccups when a new influx of workers came in.
“I can understand peoples’ concerns about what is perceived as large groups of males .
“We have had isolated reports where people have urinated in public and that is a complete non-starter. That is a clash of cultures again.”
He advised residents who felt intimidated to call the police on 101.
A spokesman for Derbyshire Constabulary said: “Anti-social behaviour, committed by members of various communities, is an ongoing problem in Shirebrook. It has been a policing priority for some years and the police are working with other agencies to try to improve the situation.”
Chad spoke to members of the Polish people in Shirebrook town centre, who did not want to be named. They said the drinkers were giving the Polish community a bad name, but were only a tiny percentage of their community in Shirebrook. A 30 year-old Polish worker said:
“Many Polish people come to the UK whether they are teachers professors or warehouse workers. With so many people you get a good and bad side.
Some of them don’t want to work and spend their time walking around the market place and drinking.
Some of them have a job and spend their money on drinking and betting.
“It gives us a bad name and they are very destructive for themselves.
Sports Direct iis a very unusual company where you are not allowed to communicate with people when you are working and that is part of the problem.
There are Too many Polish people and not enough English so they do not learn enough English.”
He said drinking outside in town centres was not a Polish tradition, adding: “If you want to go out in Poland you go to a pub or a barbecue, not sit in a market drinking.”
A Polish woman shop worker said: “It is terrible , they buy beer and drink it and then come in for more. Some of them try and push in to be first and they smell of too many drinks. It has given us all a bad name.
“Drinking outside is normal in Poland but not everybody does it - me and my friends don’t.
“A lot of these men do not want to work like normal Polish people.”