CALLS have been made to install street lights on a Basildon pathway which has become a magnet for drug dealers.

Middle Hall Path has a reputation for being a bolthole for dealers plying their illegal trade and, according to one councillor, paraphernalia such as syringes can be found in the shrubbery there.

NowKerry Smith, Ukip county councillor for Westley Heights, has started a petition and is lobbying Essex County Council to install street lights at the former cattle path, which runs underneath a railway bridge and connects Southernhay to Clay Hill Road. The top of the pathway backs on to Witchards and it is this section which has no lighting.

Mr Smith said he would not use the walkway after dark and claims it has “got a reputation”

for attracting drug dealers who throw paraphernalia into bushes when police are called, or who hide in the shrubbery.

Mr Smith said: “I would rather go the long way round.

“It’s a recipe for disaster down there, but putting street lights in would make the area safer for residents. People would be able to see where they are going at night and it would also deter crime.” Mr Smith has collected 250 signatures by calling door-todoor near the path .

Malcolm Buckley, councillor for community safety, said the issue had not been highlighted to him or to Basildon Council by Mr Smith.

He said: “I don’t know this particular path, but there are issues right the way across the borough with footpaths and walkways.

“These paths, where people are not using them regularly, are always at risk of not just vandals and drug users, but other criminals too. It’s a matter of bad design that’s the root cause of the problem, but the answer may not be lights, it could be something else, such as removing bushes and shrubbery.

“The first solution is to go to the appropriate officer, whether that’s at County Hall or Basildon Council. If councillor Smith has not done that and he’s just putting in a petition, it’s just a case of another publicity-seeking politician.”

Mr Smith plans to hand the petition in at the next full Essex County Council meeting on September 9. Essex County Council said it does not have a budget to install street lights and they are not put up as a crime deterrent.