A ROW has erupted over policing in west Reading after a £90,000 facelift for a park had to be halted when used syringes were found in the undergrowth.

The borough council began work at the beginning of September on the Beresford Road Recreation Ground but it was called off after only three days when a large number of used syringes and needles were found during the clear-up.

The wooded area has been sealed off with temporary railings, and officers are to conduct a mechanical clearance and a hand search of the area.

The delay has sparked a row between police and Battle councillor Chris Maskell, who took to Facebook to blast the force for not acting to stop anti-social behaviour and “presiding over decay” in the park.

Speaking at a meeting of the Oxford Road Neighbourhood Action Group on Tuesday, Mr Maskell insisted his statements on social media were not aimed at individual officers.

He said: “I recognise the police can’t be everywhere, but we are investing close to £90,000 in the recreation ground. It has had to be halted because of the sheer number of needles in the park. I find that very disappointing.

“I have always stood up for the police, always defended them, but I have to say I am finding it increasingly difficult to defend them in terms of their visibility in Oxford Road.” The improvements include resurfacing the games area and installing new goals, basketball hoops and an artificial cricket pitch, as well as planting trees and installing new railings. The work is funded through £1.5m of Section 106 cash which came from the sale of the Battle Hospital site after plans for a west Reading health centre fell through in 2011.

Police spokesman Lucy Billen insisted that officers not only regularly patrol the park but carry out door-knocks in the area to encourage residents to report antisocial behaviour.

She said: “Thames Valley Police has received reports of drug-taking and dealing at the recreation ground at Beresford Road and the neighbourhood team has carried out operations and warrants under the Misuse of Drugs Act which have led to arrests and subsequent convictions.

“TVP takes reports of drug offences and prostitution seriously and acts upon intelligence, including information received from the community, to deal with offences robustly.” Work is expected to resume on the park next week.