Drug paraphernalia dumped in a road close to two Fleet schools sends the wrong message to young people in the town, a resident has warned.

Journalist Alistair Coleman, 50, found dozens of spent nitrous oxide capsules, otherwise known as ‘laughing gas’ or ‘hippy crack’, and other drug-taking equipment near his home in Velmead Road on January 8, and is concerned that such behaviour could normalise drug use.

Of greatest worry is that the find was just yards away from Velmead junior and Fleet infant schools, and hundreds of children pass that spot during the morning and afternoon.

“These cartridges are almost certainly harmless but they give the impression that drugs are freely available round here and normalises their use,” said Mr Coleman.

“I can imagine a few awkward questions being asked on the school run.”

A cannister of nitrous oxide
A canister of nitrous oxide

Mr Coleman said he had contacted police on the 101 line, and had been told that the local Fleet beat team would co-ordinate with Hart District Council officials to clear up the mess.

“Frankly, somebody chose to come down our road and fly-tip their drugs waste, and that’s just unacceptable,” Mr Coleman said.

“What’s wrong with their own bin? If you’re going to use that many cartridges illegally, at least dump them in your own recycling.”

Mr Coleman said nitrous oxide is 'no laughing matter'.

Previously a so-called ‘legal high’, it was banned as a recreational drug in May 2016 under the Psychoactive Substances Act.

However, it is used legally in dentistry, car mechanics, and some aerosol cans and food packaging as a preservative.

According to the Talk to Frank website, use of nitrous oxide can lead to death as a lack of oxygen can occur during its use.

This risk is likely to be greater ‘if the gas is consumed in an enclosed space or if a substantial amount is rapidly used’ adds the national drug education service site.

There is also the risk of long-term illness, including anaemia and nerve damage.

'Yellow bag mystery'

Mr Coleman said this is not the first time that Velmead Road has witnessed unpleasant fly-tipping.

“A few years ago we had a problem with somebody repeatedly dumping human faeces in the bushes,” he added.

“It went on for several months, always in yellow plastic bags, before stopping as suddenly as it began. They never caught the culprit.”