SMOKERS from the John Radcliffe Hospital are ‘making residents' lives absolute hell’ by dropping hundreds of cigarette butts on the ground at a nearby park.

Patients, staff and visitors at the JR have been sneaking off site to light up since the hospital first banned smoking on its grounds in 2007 – usually going to the neighbouring park on Sandfield Road.

Oxford Mail:

Residents started complaining about the burnt-out butts left on the ground shortly afterwards, but the problem has never been solved.

In 2013 the hospital won planning permission to install smoking shelters on its grounds, but then made a u-turn, deciding that shelters would encourage people to harm their health.

Now, as the hot weather draws more smokers out to the park, the piles of cigarette ends have once again become unbearable and residents have demanded some kind of action.

Northway Community Association member Georgina Gibbs* said: “They all go to smoke on their lunch breaks and tea breaks, literally choking the children out of the park – all because the hospital has a no-smoking policy.

Oxford City Council should fine people, but they’ve not got enough staff.

“They’re making the residents lives absolute hell.”

Oxford City Council says 'environmental crimes' including dropping cigarettes are punishable by an £80 fine, but residents in Headington say the fines are not being used at the the Sandfield Road park.

City councillor for Headington and Quarry Roz Smith said her fellow councillors Ruth Wilkinson and Mohammed Altaf-Khan had campaigned for years for shelters at the hospital, and said that could have been the perfect way to solve the problem.

She said: “The solution that Ruth and Altaf had was the shelters with waste bins for the butts.

“The hospital were going to put up these huts, but then the trust said 'no, we can’t encourage people to smoke'. It was a missed opportunity: they even agreed to put up some advertisement to put people off smoking, and contacts to help quit.

“It would have helped people, it is a great shame.”

Instead, she said, the city council was forced to pay to clean the park up.

She said: “It costs the taxpayer money and it is annoying for everybody involved.

“It’s just not an easy one to resolve.

"The JR send people off the grounds to smoke, ending up then causing anguish for our residents. Perhaps they would like to reconsider the idea of shelters.”

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust defended its position.

Director of improvement and culture John Drew said: “In line with national policy, our buildings and grounds are no-smoking sites. Having shelters on sites contravenes this.

“We regularly remind our staff that they are not permitted to smoke on-site, and that they should remain respectful of our neighbours and surrounding areas.”

He stressed that the trust focussed its efforts on trying to help smokers quit.

*Georgina Gibbs is the Conservative Party candidate in the Headington by-election on July 19. 

She is standing to take the city council seat vacated by Ruth Wilkinson. 

Also standing for the ward are: Stef Garden for the Liberal Democrats, Ray Hitchins for the Green Party and Simon Ottino for the Labour Party.