Father Christmas has branded Canvey High Street a ‘no go area’ after thugs pelted him with rocks as he was riding his sleigh.

Former councillor Colin Letchford, 70, led the annual lantern parade dressed as Santa driving a sleigh on behalf of the Friends of Concord Beach on Saturday.

And the event once again proved a huge success, with thousands of people joining the parade, but was marred as the sleigh suffered an onslaught of stones from kids following the event.

The sleigh was being driven home by Mr Letchford, with five young girls who had helped during the parade, but was met by roughly 15 boys and bikes at the Haystack roundabout.

One of the rocks hit Mr Letchford but did not cause injury. The senseless act will now mean Canvey people will lose out as they sleigh will not return to the town centre as it has done in previous years.

Mr Letchford said: “This is just the latest in a long list of problems with the youngsters on the island.

“It is concerning, they are completely out of control.

“We have now said we will not be going back to the High Street with the sleigh, it is a no go area now.

“We do not feel safe there because of these menaces.

“Saturday night our sleigh led the lantern parade, and it was a fantastic event.

“We had a great evening, with thousands of people walking around the town to the Paddocks.

“But as we left the Paddocks and came around the corner about 15 kids starting throwing stones at us, and one of them hit me on the shoulder.

“It is such a shame because this is a community event.

“It has reached the stage that people are talking about vigilante groups so police must do something now.”

Also over the weekend, Essex Police began to crack down on anti-social behaviour by identifying a number of youths causing problems and visiting them to address their behaviour.

A number of of banning notices were put in place, while drugs were found on a 15-year-old youth found loitering at the rear of Waterside Farm during targeted patrols.

Essex Police were responding to ongoing complaints in an around the High Street, King George’s Park, The Golf Club and Waterside Farm, Canvey.

An Essex Police spokesman said: “We were called to a report of an assault shortly before 6.45pm on Saturday, December 2.

“A man has been hit by a stone thrown in Furtherwick Road, by a group of around 12 to 15 boys, aged between 12 and 16 years old.

“The victim was taking part in the Santa sleigh ride through Canvey and was uninjured.

“Officers attended the scene and searched the area for suspects.”