Legal highs may be banned in public places in Chesterfield

Charlee Oldham, Fran Davenport and Coun Chris Ludlow join Matthew Ward, Laura Ratcliffe and Annabelle Martin from the group. Picture submitted.
Charlee Oldham, Fran Davenport and Coun Chris Ludlow join Matthew Ward, Laura Ratcliffe and Annabelle Martin from the group. Picture submitted.
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The use of legal highs in public places in Chesterfield could be banned - thanks to a group of teenagers.

Young protesters from campaign group Team Change have collected more than 1,000 names on a petition calling for the dangerous substances to be outlawed in the town.

The petition has been accepted at a meeting of Chesterfield Borough Council with the recommendation that it be taken into account by the Chesterfield Community Safety Partnership when new laws on legal highs are introduced next year.

It is also recommended that the partnership - which is made up of agencies including the police - works with young people to develop a campaign highlighting the dangers of the highs.

Laura Ratcliffe, of Chesterfield, presented the petition to the council on behalf of the group.

The 16-year-old, who has just started studying A-levels at Tupton Hall sixth form, said: “There is often pressure on young people to do supposedly cool things like taking legal highs and we all wanted to do something positive and raise awareness about their dangers.

“We never expected our project to achieve so much but the huge support for our petition shows that legal highs are a real worry for local people.”

Councillor Chris Ludlow, the borough council’s cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “Legal highs are a problem which concern many of us - as shown by the 1,000-plus names on the petition.”

Legal highs produce similar effects to illegal drugs like cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis.

They cannot be sold for human consumption but sellers get around the law by marketing them as incense, salts or plant food.

Chesterfield is well-known for its problem with the substances.

A special investigation by the Derbyshire Times last year revealed how shopkeepers feared parts of the town centre had become no-go zones because of yobbish behaviour fuelled by legal highs.

Police said most of the highs had been bought from the controversial Reefer shop in Knifesmithgate.

The store now has a new identity and is no longer selling legal highs.

Meanwhile, police have stepped up patrols around the Crooked Spire church amid a number of reports about suspected use of the substances.