THE city centre has been described as a "warzone" plagued by alcoholism, rubbish, graffiti and open drug dealing through windows.

There are fears Old Steine Gardens, home to several monuments of national historic significance, is becoming a "no-go area" after dark.

Only one of ten lampposts in the area is working, graffiti has been painted over walls and rubbish has been pictured mounting up on street corners.

Brighton and Hove City Councillors recently toured the gardens amid claims they had become "the most dangerous place in the city".

The Argus:

A crackdown has been launched, with council officers writing to other authorities in a bid to tackle problems in the area.

Local business manager Gary Farmer said: "I'd like to thank those few who have spoken to me on the matter and met with me in the area to take a look at the warzone that is our city centre.

"The Old Steine area is the heart of the city, yet it is still overlooked and ignored by Brighton and Hove City Council, no one has taken ownership of the problems that plague the Cultural Quarter, it is filthy and rundown, neglected and broken, dangerous and embarrassing.

"This is the heart of the city and it is dying."

The Argus:

It is reported that "members of the street community" have been assembling in and around the mount in the southeast corner.

Members of the group have reportedly been buying alcohol from nearby shops while drunk, with an intoxicated woman bringing traffic to a standstill while council officials visited the area.

Residents have also reported the scourge of drug dealing, with exchanges being made through the windows of a nearby building.

Mr Farmer added: "The central cultural and business districts are the lifeblood of the city and its residents.

The Argus:

"The issue is not only Old Steine, it is the wider area that continues to be neglected and overlooked by administration after administration as it decays."

The email seen by The Argus shows the area has now been taken on by a joint action group, with the council's safer communities manager making a number of recommendations.

Outreach teams have been asked to identify those sleeping rough and those who are accommodated.

Licensing has been asked to "look at" specific shops in the area, which have reportedly been selling alcohol to people who are drunk.

Sussex Police Inspector Nicholas Dias has been quizzed on the enforcement of public space protection orders, which prohibits specified things from being done in the restricted area.

Drug dealing will be investigated, with those who witness it encouraged to make reports, while the council has been asked to replace the streetlights.

The Argus:

Conservative councillor Mary Mears said: "Residents living in the heart of Brighton are losing their patience with the council, which is failing to get on top of continuing issues of tents and antisocial behaviour at Old Steine Gardens and not maintaining the area.

“These gardens, with the stunning 1846 Victoria Fountain as its centrepiece, used to be the jewel in the crown of Brighton and a joy to behold for visitors and tourists alike.

“Today though this area has become the most dangerous place in the city and a no-go area at night and fountain surrounds are being used as a public toilet.

“The Council needs to get its house in order, enforce the by-laws, fix the lighting, switch on the famous fountain and return the Old Steine Gardens to its former glory.

“To do so will require the Council to have the courage to enforce its own by-laws, for the benefit of its residents and the city.”

The Argus:

The issues at Old Steine Gardens have been remarked on by both residents and visitors to the city.

One Google review says: "I wouldn't walk through at night, not unless you enjoy being grabbed or abused or both."

A Brighton and Hove City Council spokesman said: “We are aware of recent reports of anti-social behaviour in and around the Old Steine. We are working with the police, local housing providers and our outreach service providers to identify the people involved in this in order to address that behaviour.

“Police are enforcing the public spaces protection order that restricts alcohol use in the area.

“Our licensing team is also working with the police to target shops and off licences selling alcohol to people who are drunk.

“We have always taken a ‘welfare first’ approach to tent dwellers.

“If they are genuinely homeless then we offer them appropriate support and housing assistance in line with our legal duties.

“If they are not genuinely homeless, they are engaging in anti-social behaviour and we use the legal powers we have to remove the tents.

“Graffiti is a problem in all urban areas, and we’re no exception. But we’ve done a number of deep cleans of the city centre in recent months with specific targeting of high footfall areas.

“We’ve put extra money in the budget to support our work in this area.

The Argus:

“We’re sorry about the ongoing problems with refuse collections. We have been badly hit by staff sickness, a shortage of agency staff and difficulties in getting parts for trucks that break down.

“Our refuse crews are working flat out to try and improve things.

“Our redesign of Valley Gardens has created a brand new open space between the Old Steine and St Peters Church, giving the city nearly 3,000 square metres of additional green space. We’ve also planted more than 140 new trees and a wildflower meadow.

“Looking ahead we’re keen to keep making improvements to the Old Steine area. Councillors have met with local businesses in this part of the city too."