OFFENDERS have given back to the community after transforming Walcot’s Sussex Square.

Over the past few months the grass and hedges lining the buildings around the square have grown out of control and unkempt, with visitors discarding their rubbish in the long grass and the bushes and leaving the place untidy.

After numerous complaints from residents and the people who work in the square, Councillor Abdul Amin (Lab, Walcot and Park North) contacted the Community Payback team at the Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire Community Rehabilitation Company (BGSW CRC) and arranged for a team to come out and clear up the site.

Coun Amin said: “Sussex Square has become very overgrown with bushes and become a magnet for anti-social behaviour, and I have had a lot of residents come to me asking for it to be tidied up. I contacted the Community Payback team and arranged for a group of them to come out and help.

“They have been cutting back the bushes and hedgerows and cleaning out the rubbish, just to make it a nicer place to go.

“Hopefully if it is kept nicely now fewer people will want to make it untidy and it could reduce the anti-social behaviour.”

In the past, chairman of the Charity Shop and Library, Peter Mallinson, said the state of the square had grown so bad that visitors described it as a bomb site.

He said: “Some visitors coming to Sussex Square have said it looks like Beirut with all the weeds growing everywhere and the shutters.

“It’s not good for the community looking like that. It looks like people don’t care about the community and that means the youths don’t think it’s worth caring about.”

Debbie Estarbrook, manager at the Charity Shop and Library, said that since the work has been carried out the Square is a much nicer place to work.

She said: “They really have done a brilliant job.

“Before they did anything is was so overgrown and untidy. Now it’s far more respectable and I do feel happier about coming to work. It just looks nicer.

“I know it will all be knocked down in a year or two but it really does make a difference.”

Doug Mack, Community Payback Supervisor, said the team of five offenders had been working very hard to clear the Square.

He said: “The main purpose of clearing out places like this is to give something back to the community.

“But it’s also about experience, and they are picking up skills which could help them to find a job.

“They’ve worked really hard and made a real difference to the Square. Some of the offenders find it quite hard but generally they got on with it quite well.”