LARGE groups of foreign language students have turned a local park into a hub of anti-social behaviour and vandalism, residents have claimed.
People living in the area have reported up to 50 teenagers who gather regularly at Hythe Bridge Street Pocket Park beside Castle Mill Stream to drink large amounts of alcohol before going on to local nightclubs.
James Young, an artist and musician from Upper Fisher Row, said their behaviour is damaging the area and making life a misery for people who live there.
He said: “It’s been going on for about three years now and it’s just become worse and worse. They gather there to drink cheap booze so they don’t have to spend lots of money in local clubs.
“They get incredibly drunk and make an awful lot of noise, shouting and yelling and playing loud music on boom boxes.
“It’s become a focus point for foreign language students who have started gathering at the place.
“They start arriving at about 10.30pm when we’re just starting to head to bed and the noise makes it very hard for us to sleep.”
Mr Young, who has lived in Upper Fisher Row for over 30 years, said the problems have recently escalated and have led to violence and vandalism in the park.
He said: “You get what you’d expect with young people who don’t know how to handle alcohol.
“They get into fights and extreme emotional states and they have damaged and uprooted trees and left litter everywhere. They even managed to break one of the branches of an old willow tree.”
Pratima Mitchell, who also lives in Upper Fisher Row, said the problem wasn’t always confined to the local park. She said: “I came home one night and I found dozens of young people lying in my street.
They were extremely drunk and they were vomiting everywhere and in a very bad way. They asked us not to tell their parents which shows you just how young they are, they’re certainly not old enough to be legally drinking alcohol.”
Councillor for Jericho and Osney Susanna Pressel said she had been aware of the issue for a number of years.
She said: “I have helped to set up meetings between the language schools, the city council and the police in the past and I’m now setting up another one.
“There are regular meetings anyway, but sometimes we need an extra one to deal with this recurring problem.
“I’m also speaking to Trading Standards because if there is underage drinking going on we need to find out where the young people are getting the alcohol from.”
There are around 50 institutions in the city offering language courses for foreign students.
Oxford City Council spokeswoman Louisa Dean said: “We are aware of the issues around Hythe Bridge Street and we have been working with our partner agencies to try to resolve them.
“There is an Oxford Language School Forum which was set up about 18 months ago and is helping to address the problems which includes monitoring and patrolling by city council officers and police officers.”
EF International Language Centre, in Pullens Lane, Headington, which is one of the largest in the city, declined to comment when approached by the Oxford Mail. Thames Valley Police said it had received reports of anti-social behaviour but added it was a council matter.
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