Mansfield vicar in syringe safety row

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A Mansfield vicar says his children are being put at risk by drug-users throwing used syringes into the garden of the vicarage where he lives.

Rev Keith Hebden, vicar at St Mark’s in Nottingham Road, said he is retrieving several hypodermic needles from the garden, located in the church grounds, each week.

And the clergyman has criticised Mansfield District Council who have, so far, refused to allow him to erect a safety fence - saying ‘it would be harmful to the character of the local area’.

Rev Hebden submitted an application to the district council to have a 90cm mesh fence erected above an existing stone wall at the vicarage, but his application was initially turned down.

Instead, he was advised to erect Victorian railings at the property, which Rev Hebden said would not solve the problem.

He said he was worried about allowing his children, aged four and seven, to play in the garden or asking other children to attend community church events at the property.

The council said it operated a hotline service and could arrange for the collection and disposal of syringes within 24 hours.

Rev Hebden (pictured) told Chad: “The planning department have been obstructive and the council will not take needles form private property. Meanwhile, we can’t use the end of our garden for fear of stepping on bottles and needles. I don’t think there’s any malice but there isn’t much humanity in it either.”

“This is a classic example of how one person alone can’t stand up against a big system. We need each other if we’re ever going to build the sort of society we’d actually like to live in

“The fence would barely be seen by anybody, A syringe could be thrown at any time - and I can’t be 24-hours-a-day vigilant.”

The council said they are now waiting to more information from Rev Hebden before they reach a final decision.

A spokesman said: It was considered that the proposed fence would be visually obtrusive and harmful to the character and appearance of this conservation area.

“However, rather than refusing the application immediately, the local planning authority has recommended that the application be amended to propose a fence using black cast metal railings.”