Residents fear area is ‘turning into a slum’

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Residents of the Annagh area attended an emergency meeting on Tuesday night in a bid to find a resolution to the growing problems of anti-social behaviour and rubbish.

In a frank meeting, they described gangs of children and youths roaming the area, fights, people urinating against the walls of houses, damage to cars, drug dealing, prostitution and abusive language and behaviour.

They said rubbish was piled up and fly-tipping the norm, and claimed the growing foreign national population was largely responsible.

One man said the Annagh had become a “slum” while another revealed that, having lived in the area his whole life, he had now put his house on the market.

The meeting of the Annagh Residents’ Forum was brought forward due to the urgency of the situation, with a call for action to be taken now.

One woman said, “There is a lot of anger. We brought up our own children here and they weren’t doing any of this.”

The meeting was chaired by Keith McCann of Regenerate and attended by MLA Doug Beattie, UUP Councillors Julie Flaherty and Arnold Hatch and a community services officer from Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon (ABC) Council.

The meeting comes in the same week as police figures for Portadown reveal anti-social behaviour accounted for almost half of 333 reported crimes in June. Police also announced they would be running a month-long campaign on anti-social behaviour.

However, residents from streets including Coronation and Queen Street, said the same issues had been raised time and time again but nothing was being done, leaving them frustrated and angry.

The council representative revealed she was having a meeting with managers on Wednesday to discuss the problems, while Mr McCann said he was due to meet the new PSNI community inspector.

Mr Beattie said a situation had developed where there was a “community within a community” and that the ‘locals’ had become separated from the foreign national population.

He agreed with Mr McCann that the children needed to be engaged with youth organisations and activities but also suggested locating and educating the landlords first and foremost.

He also proposed reducing the number of foreign nationals coming into the area in the short term to give residents “breathing space”.

Concern was also expressed over the welfare of unsupervised young children.

“I will also speak to the PSNI to see if they can provide more visible policing,” added the MLA.