RESIDENTS have slammed the “sickening” spread of drugs in Kemp Town after reporting children picking up needles and witnessing open drug dealing.

The shocking cases came to light yesterday at a public meeting called by police and the city council to produce an action plan for the St James’s Street area of Brighton, which residents say is “at breaking point”.

One woman, who gave her name as JJ, spoke of her “disgust” at seeing a young girl on a visit to Brighton hold up a used needle and ask her mother what it was.

Another resident, Francis Rennells, who lives at council tower block Wiltshire House in Lavender Street, said he had been with his friend’s ten-year-old daughter when she looked out of the window and said: “Daddy, we can’t leave the house now because they’re doing their drug dealing.”

Mr Rennells said: “What got me most was the way she said it, she was so matter of fact. It’s just sickening.”

Nearly 100 residents and business owners gathered around tables with police and community officers at Dorset Gardens Methodist Church to voice their concerns.

They called for sharps bins on the streets to dispose of used needles, more officers on the beat and CCTV cameras to tackle what they called a “massive increase in drug use” – especially heroin – in the past few years.

JJ said: “I’m just totally ashamed.

“I have a lot of sympathy for these people addicted to hard drugs.

“ It’s not easy for them – many of them have fallen on hard times.

“We do what we can to help the people we see struggling – we give them free food and water but something needs to be done.”

One person said the area was now “at breaking point” and another called out: “It’s already broken.”

Valerie Redmond, from Shortt’s Bar in St James’s Street, said: “These issues just go back and forth between the council and the police and we’d like to see someone taking accountability.”

Sam Warren, city neighbourhood co-ordinator for the council, said this was the reason police and the authority were now vowing to work together.

She said: “A lot of conversations take place, go round and round, and nothing happens. There’s disillusionment.

“That’s why we’re making an action plan together.”

Chief Inspector Rachel Swinney, who co-chaired the meeting, said: “This is a positive step. We’re glad people could voice their concerns as this will help us put together a proper strategy.

“That’s the purpose of this meeting. We’re standing shoulder to shoulder with residents.’

“People will groan when I say this, but when we’ve done this before in other areas it takes between six months and a year.

That doesn’t mean we can’t take steps along the way, too, but we want to do this properly.”

She told residents the next step would be holding meetings with specific groups such as business owners.