BARNSLEY could become the first town in Yorkshire to ban the use of legal highs in public under a move being discussed by MP Dan Jarvis and council officials.
Mr Jarvis has become a leading campaigner against the legal but dangerous drugs and wants Barnsley Council to take action similar to that now in place in Lincoln, which has become the first local authority in the country to outlaw the use of legal highs in public following increasing problems.
The Barnsley Central MP has now organised a meeting with senior officials to discuss ways of introducing local legislation which would prohibit the use of the substances in public places.
The announcement follows increased concern from residents about anti-social behaviour caused in part by the sale of legal highs, which they also blame for attracting dealers offering illegal drugs into parts of the town.
Mr Jarvis has campaigned vigorously against legal highs, which have similar chemical compounds to illegal drugs but are sufficiently different to sidestep legislation.
That does not make them safe, however, and the substances have been linked to deaths nationally and often leave users on the streets in a drug-induced stupor when they are taken.
Residents in the Sheffield Road area close to the town centre have become increasingly alarmed about problems since a so-called ‘head shop’ opened in the area.
That business transferred from The Arcade in Barnsley town centre after the landlord, fed up with the bad publicity it attracted there, evicted the owner.
Mr Jarvis revealed that he had tried to trace the landlord of the current premises in the hope that similar tactics could be employed, but there had been no success so far.
However, he now has a meeting planned with the Home Office to try to ensure the Government presses ahead quickly with its intention to outlaw all legal highs.
Councillor Jenny Platts, Barnsley Council’s Cabinet spokesperson for Communities, said: “The council recognises the impact of ‘legal highs’ on individuals and communities, and is considering the best way to try and manage the potential serious harm being caused by the selling and use of these substances.”
A public meeting attended by Mr Jarvis and South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings, heard from a string of residents in the Sheffield Road area who had needed to call ambulances for those apparently suffering adverse effects after taking legal highs, with problems starting as early as 8am.
Dr Billings said there was no “magic bullet” to solve the problems and said: “This will require the police and local authority trying to do something.”