THE YMCA said it has stepped up security and met with residents ‘frequently’ after reports of anti-social behaviour around a landmark building.

The YMCA Highbridge and Burnham-on-Sea, which replaced the former Highbridge Hotel, opened in February and includes a community cafe, sports hall, conference and meeting space as well as 23 rooms of supported accommodation.

The community welcomed the opening of the building earlier this year but residents say there has been a rise in incidents of anti-social behaviour outside the building and in the local area including shouting, arguing and drinking.

One resident, who wished to remain anonymous, claims police have been repeatedly called to disturbances near the YMCA and people feel ‘intimidated’ while walking past the property.

“We live right opposite the YMCA and there has been residents outside drinking alcohol all day long,” the resident said. “They have now stopped drinking outside the YMCA but moved on to by the town clock. Sometimes about 20 people at a time. Shouting, arguing, generally being a nuisance and making people feel intimidated walking past.

“The police are attending daily as are ambulances. Wednesday (June 24) was the worst day, they must have attended about four times along with ambulances, the latest being at 2.30am on Thursday (June 25) which woke my son up as his room overlooks the YMCA.

“On Wednesday we watched an elderly lady go to walk past the town clock with her shopping trolley but when she saw the cried gathered there and heard the shouting, she turned back. It’s just not fair on us residents.

“The residents go off out all day and basically do what they want, then they don’t return to the building until the night time.”

Andrew Pearce, a director at YMCA Dulverton Group, said the YMCA is committed to ensuring residents and the local community are safe but it would be ‘unfortunate’ if the community were to ‘blanket blame’ the YMCA and its residents.

“Over the last few months at YMCA Highbridge, we have worked very hard to ensure that our clients have had access to safe and secure accommodation throughout what has been a very challenging time,” he said.

“We have acted quickly to make housing available for vulnerable members of the community in line with Government instruction, working in partnership with Sedgemoor District Council among other agencies.

“It is indeed a challenging time for everyone, and I continue to encourage our staff and our residents to be safe and for the latter, behave in a manner which befits the opportunity that has been presented to them in being accommodated.

“The clients we have placed within the new building have not been those which were initially proposed, and to this end there have been challenges.

“We have taken action where necessary, stepped up security and staffing, met with residents frequently to instruct them of rules and have created new spaces for them to be, away from public areas in the town.

“While we understand concern, it would be unfortunate if the local community were to blanket blame the YMCA and the whole resident group, as the overwhelming majority are working with the staff team to remain safe; and indeed in doing so we have during this period managed to take people rough-sleeping into our accommodation and then in partnership with Sedgemoor District Council move them on to independent living.

“The team are committed to ensuring that both residents and the local community remain safe and healthy during this time and we look forward to developing stronger relationships with our neighbours to ensure that YMCA Highbridge will continue to be an asset to the community.”

A spokesperson from Sedgemoor District Council added: “As with any anti-social behaviour reported, we work with partner organisations to try and solve the root problems.

“It is not a quick fix.

“If there is any criminal activity, then the police would deal with that.”

The Weekly News has also contacted James Heappey, Peter Clayton and Avon and Somerset Police for comment on the issue.