Talks under way to crack down on laughing gas use in Wigan
Discussions have been launched on how to tackle laughing gas as a recreational drug in Wigan as fears mount for the safety of youngsters.
Reports of nitrous oxide canisters have poured in to the Wigan Post over the past few months, with residents sharing pictures of countless empty shells littering sites across the borough.
Community groups, including Friends of Three Sisters, have spoken out about the problem - which not only leads to unsightly fly tipping but is also potentially lethal to users.
The gas is typically inhaled through a balloon. It causes a short spell of euphoria but if done incorrectly, or too much, can cause loss of consciousness, suffocation or even death.
Last month, Ashton councillor Anthony Sykes pledged to crack down on the problem in his ward before someone loses their life.
The Labour councillor says that the current law is not sufficient to secure prosecutions against people selling or using the gas.
Coun Sykes approached the town hall about possible enforcement action saying he feels there is “no choice” anymore.
Initially he suggested a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) but the council has reportedly been contemplating a more direct approach.
Following discussions, Coun Sykes revealed that the town hall is considering bringing in a borough-wide community protection notice (CPN).
This would give the police the power they need to issue sanctions, in the form of fines, against anyone caught in possession of nitrous oxide canisters.
He said: “I was assured that not only would the CPN do this, but it would also be in place faster than a PSPO would be.
“However, this CPN will still take a couple of months to become active, so in the mean time educating people about the dangers to health (and impending CPN) is to take place directly in Ashton.
“In addition to these measures together with fellow Ashton councillor Jenny Bullen, I visited Wigan council central watch CCTV monitoring.
“The cameras are very good and can provide clear face and car registrations (if they are pointing in right direction).
“Ashton is well covered, but there are blind spots which unsurprisingly are where the NO gas abuse is happening.
“So we are going to look at getting cameras put in these areas.
“It will depend on funding available, but I’m going to prioritise it as I believe it’s one of the biggest issues for the town.”
Coun Sykes is in the process of visiting pubs in Ashton to kickstart the local Pubwatch scheme enabling publicans to work together and share information between themselves and the police.
“This obviously will address issues other than NO abuse,” said Coun Sykes. “But although it is taking place outside in the streets and car parks, by publicans and police sharing intelligence, any persons involved/intoxicated can be refused entry from all establishments.
“I have worked alongside both council and GMP licensing officers. I now spoken to the majority of publicans and they are very supportive.”
Wigan Council has said that preliminary discussions have started but no decisions have yet been made about the CPN or any other enforcement action.