Inside desperate town where fed-up locals are tormented until 3am by drug dealers and streets are 'overrun by pimps' | The Sun

NOT so long ago, the house-proud residents of Newport’s Commercial Road spent an hour every Monday scrubbing slate slabs outside their front doors until they were spotless.

“You could have eaten your dinner off them,” says 94-year-old Thelma Lloyd as she reflects on better times in the neighbourhood in south Wales.

Commercial Road sits at the heart of the city’s Pillgwenlly – or Pill, as it’s known locally. It is a melting pot of culture, arguably one of the most diverse communities in Wales.

But, in recent years, Pill has become a magnet for drug dealers and prostitutes, lured by the huge rise in the number of houses of multiple occupation (HMOs).

The crumbling, once-grand properties are bordered by land supposedly ear-marked for development, which in reality have turned into patches of wasteland used to dump rubbish.

Locals complain the boarded-up sites are crawling with rats. Nearby, drug-dealers ply their trade in broad daylight and fly-tippers dump what they no longer need.


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The sad sights come as Newport was revealed to be home to the most annoying neighbours in the UK.

Warring residents in the Welsh city, as well as Newham in London, topped the list after their complaints about loud music and parties as well as security lights, barbecues, bins and insects.

Lynn Campbell, 66, who has lived near Commercial Road all her life, is now campaigning for Newport council to crack down on the rubbish tippers and improve the area enough to drive the dealers away.

“Pill won’t stand for this any longer,” she said. “I’ve worked in the pub trade in Pill all of my working life and I’ve seen dramatic changes — it’s so sad.

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“Pill was thriving. I was brought up here with Somalis, Jamaicans, Italians, you name it. We never had a problem. Everybody loved everybody and everyone knew each other.

"Now I’m up until three in the morning every night and all I can hear is drug dealing outside my window.”

Like others in Pill, she blames the “uncontrolled proliferation” of approvals by the council of HMOs, often used as temporary accommodation for vulnerable people, who can be easy prey for drug-dealers.

They are also targeted by pimps who try and tempt – or threaten – the women into sex work.

'Terrifying incident'

Jo Evans-Pring, 60, runs Fanny's Rest Stop café beneath the shadow cast by Newport’s famous giant transporter bridge.

She said: "The place has gone downhill in the 11 years I've been here.

"Because people don't communicate with each other, they never learn to understand each other.

"We had a terrifying incident here only a couple of months ago when a woman claimed she's been raped in an old shop next door.

"She climbed out of a window and came in here with another woman. I called the police but they didn't come and then she just disappeared. They've boarded the place up now.

"Drugs are the big problem around here. You only have to drive around to see the dealing going on.”

The owner of a laundry shop in Commercial Road, who gave his name as Ako, said: “There’s plenty here that’s bad, but there’s some good things about Pill too.

"It’s probably no worse here than in any other big city – you’ll always find good and bad stuff."

'Smelly and dirty'

A 50-year-old man wandering down Commercial Road, who asked not to be named, said: "The problem with Commercial Road is that it's smelly and dirty.

“I’ve seen rats crawling through the rubbish that’s been dumped at several strips of wasteland around here.

"The council says it's approved these patches of land for smart, new property to be built, but I don’t see any development work going on in Pill – just drug dealers, hookers and rats.”

Hadi Saji, a 21-year-old hairdresser on Commercial Road, shook his head when reflecting on the area's changing face.

“It’s the usual problems, unfortunately – drugs and drunks, lots of shouting," he said.

“But, to be fair, it’s probably no worse than anything you’d find in other cities nowadays.

'Disappointed and disgusted'

One of Pill’s oldest residents, 94-year-old Thelma Lloyd, who was shopping in Commercial Road, fumed: "The place is a disgrace.

“They’ve allowed it to become so run down and as a result, many of the nice residents have moved out.

"If my old neighbours could see the place now, they would be so disappointed and disgusted. The place has gone downhill very quickly.

"It was always quite poor here, just ordinary working people, but we had a wonderful sense of community and you felt safe here.

"It's so different now and there is rubbish all over the place and it takes ages for the council to clear up the mess.

"When I was younger, everyone washed their front door slates every Monday morning and it was spotless, not the dirty place it is now."

Café customer Rob Smith, 62, said: "There's an empty shop near here  that we think is being used as a drug den.

"You see all sorts going in there and the front door has been changed lots of times because it's been broken down.

"The council spent some money doing up Commercial Road about five years ago, but they haven't bothered since.

"They did do up the toilets into a sort of theatre, now called the Phyllis Maud Performing Space, but I don't think it's used very often, other than the occasional meetings they hold there.

"The place is becoming more and more run down, it's very depressing, but thank goodness for Fanny's café where you can forget your surroundings and have a laugh.”

A spokesperson for Newport council said: “Newport City Council carries out a significant amount of work, together with partners, in the Pillgwenlly ward from tackling fly-tipping, through regular clean-ups and more prosecutions, to helping to address homelessness and substance misuse."

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It added: "Applications for HMOs are assessed in accordance with adopted supplementary planning guidance.  This planning policy considers the concentration of HMOs in the area and all applications are subject to consultation with residents and appropriate stakeholders.  

"Temporary accommodation is provided across the city, not just in Pill. A range of services are provided for those who need support with addiction or mental health problems.”

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