A BASINGSTOKE charity has vowed to tackle some of the problems at the Top of Town caused by anti-social behaviour.

Spotlight UK relocated its charity shop to the Top of Town after its former premises in Popley was taken back by Hampshire County Council, to be used as a school for autistic children.

However, since opening the shop in Winchester Street, Michaela Riley, founder of the charity, said they have experienced problems with anti-social behaviour outside.

She said: “There is a big problem with people drinking, smoking weed and having big arguments and shouting amongst themselves in front of the public outside the shops and begging for money which appears to have got worse, despite the rangers walking around as they cannot seem to do much to stop it especially around 4pm to 5pm and it can be quite intimidating.”

As previously reported in the Gazette, other business owners at the Top of Town also reported similar problems in the area.

We also revealed that footfall counters used by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council to monitor people visiting the Top of Town show numbers had fallen by six per cent, despite the council spending £280,000 to improve the area and attract more visitors.

The borough council invested £7,000 in footfall counters to monitor the number of people in the area for three years.

Michaela said she is trying to secure £2,000 funding through grants to pay youth workers to work with young people at the Top of Town, to tackle some of the problems in the area, and encourage young people off the street.

She said: “We are aware that some of the young people are getting caught up in drug crime and we want to tackle it and change lives.

“We went and sat outside the museum and there were about 15 to 20 young people and someone said they had to break up a fight between two girls who were pinning another girl to the floor.”

However, she said many of the problems are not caused by young people, explaining: “There’s a big issue right by our shop with drinking and that’s adults. There’s a couple in particular and you have to look at why they are there in the first place, what’s got them to that situation in the first place, and a lot need support.”

She added: “There’s drug dealing and by the afternoon one man gets cross because he’s been drinking all day. We get all the public saying there’s nothing to do at the Top of Town and they don’t want to go there because they are scared. Hopefully we can make a difference and make it better. It’s amazing being up there and seeing what’s going on because hopefully we can make a difference.”

n LAST week the CEO of Basingstoke Business Improvement District Lucy Boazman, responsible for improving the Top of Town, has stepped down.