AN Old Dean shopping parade, dubbed a "criminals' paradise", is to have CCTV cameras — two years after they were promised by Surrey Heath Council.

Barry Catchpole, the council's chief executive, said the shopping area's old-style design made it a haven for troublemakers. He promised cameras would be in place within weeks.

At a meeting in October, representatives of Camberley Police, Surrey County Council and Surrey Heath Council listened to residents of the Old Dean as they outlined the "vandalism, harassment, intimidation, under-age drinking and drug taking" that blighted the area.

Mr Catchpole told residents at the meeting that funding for CCTV cameras in the Old Dean had just been made available.

Six months later, the cameras have not appeared but, according to Mr Catchpole, they should be in place in the next few weeks. "It has been tortuous getting the funds from the Home Office," he explained.

"We will be getting £66,000 a year from the Home Office Initiative Funds to target drug problems in the borough but we are only just about to receive the second instalment.

"We are getting quotes on mobile CCTV cameras and I can guarantee that the first set will go up in the Old Dean shopping area to tackle drug activity and anti-social behaviour."

But some people are sceptical and say they need to see the cameras up and running before they believe it.

Cllr Margaret Moher said shopkeepers had been asking for cameras for two years and had almost given up hope.

"It's a long time coming," she said. "I would like them to have been done yesterday. This goes back a couple of years now.

"I attended the meeting last year and was told the government had money we could use.

"I was impressed that something was going to be done then, but nothing happened.

"The parade of shops will be delighted, but I'm not going to hold my breath."

What is being proposed for the Old Dean are mobile CCTV cameras which record on to tape rather than being linked to Woking police station.

Thirty days' worth of tapes will be kept to cope with late reporting of crimes.

Mr Catchpole spoke of his hope that eventually the cameras would move to other areas that needed them once they had reduced crime on the Old Dean shopping parade.

"I'm hoping it will bring the shops back to life," he added. "Although the Old Dean was the first to get a beat officer, he can't be everywhere, but the cameras will always be there."

A spokesman for Camberley police said: "Hopefully it will deter the youths up there that are causing problems.

"It's not a criminals' paradise, although it is true the layout means there are lots of passageways which aid people intent on escaping. But shops are not designed to be like prisons."

Cllr Fay Storey, ward councillor for the Old Dean, added: "I think it's brilliant. It will give me great pleasure to see them up and running. We've been waiting well over a year.

"I think people using the shops feel much safer."

The annual £66,000 for Surrey Heath Council from the Home Office Initiative Fund is also going to be used to fund the borough's drugs intelligence officer and a share in the use of a drugs sniffer dog.