THE NUMBER of people congregating at Harrison Square in Lerwick on weekend nights has greatly dropped after a nightclub in the town reopened, according to local police chief Stuart Clemenson.
He said since the Trench Bar on Commercial Road, which has a licence until to 3am, opened last month the square has been “really, really quiet” late at night.
Meanwhile the idea of installing portable toilets in the centre of Lerwick for use at night when the nearby public loos are closed appears to be gaining traction.
Clemenson told a meeting of Shetland’s community safety and resilience board on Wednesday that he has held talks with the council’s anti-social behaviour officer Billy Mycock this week on the subject.
He said one option raised is to have two semi-portable facilities plumbed in near to the public toilets.
Harrison Square has been topic of concern from some for a number of months regarding alleged antisocial behaviour, with people often using the seating area to congregate.
This includes people going to the pubs, particularly as there is a late-opening chip shop there.
Clemenson warned against “hyper focusing” on the square itself and also any one “community” of people who use it, such as younger people.
He said the number of people at the square at night has almost been “decimated” since the Trench bar opened in the former Wheel premises, giving Lerwick back a nightclub.
“They’ve taken away that group of individuals who are of 18 years plus who have now moved from just hanging around because there’s nothing to do from midnight when the restaurants are closed and maybe don’t want to go to pubs, and are there for the chip shop etcetera, and they’ve now moved into Trench,” he said.
More generally Clemenson said lighting has been improved around Harrison Square too.
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The police chief added that relatively “very few” recorded crimes relate to the square or the town centre.
In the last six months there have been five assaults in the square, one incident of vandalism, four tickets for drinking in a public place, and two tickets for urinating in a public place.
Clemenson also said that between July and October police spent around 350 hours on weekend nights in the centre of Lerwick.
Board chairman Allison Duncan has been out to the square on many weekend nights to monitor for himself what has been going on.
He said at Wednesday’s meeting that there have been definite improvements recently, and since the nightclub opened crowds have dispersed around an hour earlier than usual.
Shetland South councillor Duncan also praised the council’s new youth hang-out space on Commercial Road, which is trialling opening three evenings a week.
But he said “Saturday night is still a problem”.
“This problem has to be resolved somehow, and that’s for the various agencies,” Duncan said. “The youth must have an entertainment venue on a Saturday night.”
The toilet situation should be addressed as a “matter of urgency” as folk are still urinating up Lerwick lanes, the Esplanade and the sea, he added. At the moment the public toilets next to Harrison Square close at 9pm.
“Surely in a population of 7,000-plus that’s unacceptable,” Duncan said.
The senior councillor also added that he is “there to support and help the youths”.
Meanwhile Lerwick South member John Fraser suggested his colleague could take a motion to the full council regarding the toilets if he was so keen on change.
“You can talk ’til the cows come home, or the revellers go home,” he added.
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