TWENTY discarded needles were found during a clean up of known drugs hotspots but the situation is improving, according to those who live and work nearby.

Ex-addicts led the search in east Oxford this morning, as the city's drugs taskforce attempts to deter anti-social behaviour.

City council staff and volunteers from Turning Point, the drug and alcohol addiction service, first combed the bushes in Meadow Lane where they found 12 needles. 

This marked a reduction from the 17 found during the last clear-up in the same spot in November.

The group then turned their attention to Manzil Way Gardens and the Church of Saint Mary and Saint John opposite where a further eight needles were found. 

Mark Lambert, the volunteer coordinator for Turning Point, said things were improving in both areas. 

He said: "It is getting better but there's still a bit of work to do.

"People are going to use in areas where they think no one is about. 

"So the more we can encourage the space to be used by the community, the healthier it becomes.

"No one sets out to be disrespectful, they don't look at the impact of their usage on the wider community. 

"They have an addiction and they are trying to feed."

Mr Lambert added that having a visible presence in the area would help to reassure those who live nearby and help his volunteers feel like their skills were being valued. 

He said: "It's a useful exercise for both the community and our volunteers. 

"It shows they are starting to interact with the community and take pride in it.

"There are current addicts who will see them and think 'there's someone who used to be like me and they are doing really well' so it also gives hope in that way."

Tens of thousands of pounds have been spent on tidying up Manzil Way in recent years to deter drug using and dealing. 

A playground has been installed and foliage cut back to make the area more welcoming for families.

Councillor for the area Tom Hayes said further changes are in the pipeline, including brighter streetlights and the removal of benches.

A consultation has been held recently to allow people to give their ideas for what else they would like to see done and Mr Hayes said early indications show a desire for gym equipment and sports facilities to be installed.

He said: "We have made a huge investment in the space and now we have to make sure it is used as much as possible. 

"I'd like to see events and activities to draw people in."