"RESIDENTS and business owners have had enough" and are ready to stage a protest over the run-down state of their High Street, a fed-up Lye trader has told the News.

Businesses have closed and many elderly people will no longer set foot in Lye High Street as concerns about crime, gangs, prostitution, rogue landlords, litter, fly-tipping and open spaces being used as toilets continue to spiral.

Gary Farmer, who runs Poshkutz pet grooming parlour, said: “You wouldn't see this in Hagley or Oldswinford. The High Street has become a no-go zone.

“The antique shop has closed after 28 years. Helen’s Café moved out a few weeks ago after just 12 months. There’s no footfall - and there are paths full of weeds and broken bollards and gangs on car parks doing drug deals in broad daylight.

“You don’t see an elderly person on the High Street and the pharmacy is now alarm bell entry only. The Romanian problem is horrendous. They don't want to integrate. There's no police presence - 13 businesses have been broken into in the last four weeks. Restaurants have been done over. I've been done four times in six years. All police give you is a crime number.

"I've lived in Lye 48 years and it's upsetting to see how it's declining."

Stourbridge News: Lye High StreetLye High Street

He said a number of restaurants have shut their doors in Lye's once famous 'balti belt' and he added: "Restaurants are struggling to fill five tables a night on a weekend. The 'balti belt' has gone in Lye. People do not want to come into the High Street."

Mr Farmer stood as a candidate in Lye and Stourbridge North for the Black Country Party in the local election in May to try and do his bit to turn things around but he lost out to sitting Labour councillor Mohammed Hanif, who represents the area along with Labour colleagues - councillors Vanessa Wale and Pete Lowe (Dudley Council's former leader).

He said residents and traders are always contacting him about problems in the area which he said he forwards onto the elected representatives but he claims he has not received a response in the last 12 months and he added: "Our councillors are letting us down. Myself and other residents of Lye and Wollescote are ready to stage a protest in the High Street to wake these councillors up."

Cllr Hanif, however, speaking on behalf of himself and cllrs Wade and Lowe, said he and his fellow ward councillors were always on hand to respond to issues.

He said: "We have a close working relationship with local residents and business people and we work closely with the police and the council."

And he said he had taken Dudley's new chief executive Kevin O’Keefe on a walkabout in Lye on July 5 to highlight some of the issues.

He told the News: "There has been a major problem but it's calmed down.

"Things like fly-tipping have been actioned within 12 hours, sometimes within four hours; people don't gather in front of the church as much as they used to. Things are getting better. I'm not saying it's all over. I would like people to report things more and more. We've offered to work with the Lye and Wollescote Action Group and other groups.

"I'm available 24/7, I'm down there almost every day."

He said he worked for 24 years in Lye - the town his family first moved to in 1973 - and he added: "I know every brick and every little corner. I'm on the side of the community. I know how they feel."

Stourbridge News: Lye councillor Mohammed Hanif with Cradley and Wollescote councillors Gaye Partridge and Tim Crumpton when they first spoke out on issues of concern about Lye in 2018Lye councillor Mohammed Hanif with Cradley and Wollescote councillors Gaye Partridge and Tim Crumpton when they first spoke out on issues of concern about Lye in 2018

Brierley Hill and Netherton are facing similar challenges, he said, and he added: "It's not the councillors' fault that the Romanians are there. I don't see why we should be blamed for them being there. They're in other towns too. We need to work together in harmony and get things done and make it a community for all."

Cllr Hanif, who has been campaigning to bring back Lye's town clock to help restore pride in the area, said he and fellow councillors stage roving surgeries in the town and he added: "We are more than happy to have a meeting with anybody that wants to come and sit down with us. We are accountable, visible and we care about our community. We want to work together and get Lye back on its feet. I wish more people reported things than talked about it on Facebook."

It has been more than a year since the News first reported on the worries in Lye - and Dudley Council says since then it has been working hard with partner agencies to try to tackle the problems.

A spokesman said a dedicated rogue landlord group comprising police, West Midlands Fire Service, Trading Standards and others meets bi-monthly to coordinate action and share intelligence about rogue landlords in the borough.

She added: "The Lye area also forms part of a multi-agency community cohesion group as a result of which a number of reactive and proactive investigations have been undertaken. In recent weeks we have carried out nine inspections. No offences have so far been disclosed."

The council stressed it does have a dedicated litter patrol operating Monday to Saturday in Lye - "with further mechanical sweeping activity each week in addition to fortnightly mechanical channel sweeping".

The spokesman added: "We do not generally experience many incidents of fly-tipping on the High Street. We do, however, get bags left out but these are removed by the team. Bags believed to be commercial waste are investigated by our enforcement team to try to determine where they came from. If information is identified, Dudley Council will look to progress enforcement action.

Stourbridge News: Rubbish dumped at the back of the Nisa supermarket in Lye High StreetRubbish dumped at the back of the Nisa supermarket in Lye High Street

"We have experienced problems with fly-tipping in Clinic Drive off the High Street and Valley Road, which when brought to our attention is removed. To assist us we would ask local residents to inform us of any details they have of any fly-tipping in the area in order that we may investigate at the earliest opportunity. This can be done by contacting Dudley Council Plus on 0300 555 2345."

She said Kingdom Enforcement Services, which has a litter enforcement contract with Dudley Council, has issued 56 Fixed Penalty Notices in the Lye area for littering and she added: "Lye is constantly on our radar however a large part of the problem is the proportion of open space that is in private ownership and getting absent landlords to clear rubbish left on their land."

She said the council had put in place the means to address issues identified at a community forum meeting last year such as "allocating bespoke community development resource for the area, targeting the area for identification of fly tipping and littering offences, protecting the war memorial and undertaking proactive and reactive investigations into allegations of rogue landlord activity" and she said Lye would also be considered for extra CCTV.

She said councillors had taken a lead on prevalent issues in Lye "for a considerable amount of time" - dealing with concerns reported at surgeries, arranging public meetings and working with the police to ensure potential criminal matters are reported and investigated.

She added that the council's community development team has been working since May 2018 on projects including community walks, litter picks, drop-in clinics for the community to discuss health issues as well as working with the management committee at Lye Community Centre.

Stourbridge News: Lye High StreetLye High Street

The council, however, admitted it has struggled to recruit a Community Development Worker with the required language skills - with the spokesman adding: "We are currently exploring the best means of recruiting to the post."

Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, said the authority was "always looking at ways to strengthen, rejuvenate and regenerate our local communities" and he added: “The Lye area is an important and valued part of our borough and that’s why we are continuing to work with the local community, ward councillors, West Midlands Police, West Midlands Fire Service, trading standards and many other partners to make a number of positive changes in the area.

“The community can hear more about this and get involved in some of the exciting things up ahead at the community led Lye Summer Fete at Christchurch on Saturday August 17.”

The borough's top cop Chief Superintendent Sally Bourner said: "There is lots of work going on in Lye in partnership with the local neighbourhood team. We are aware that in recent weeks people have been raising concerns. When you look at the detail that sits behind it a lot of it is around fly-tipping, littering, so the council are doing a lot of work around that because if a neighbourhood looks clean and tidy, it generates a more positive feeling.

Stourbridge News: Chief Supt Sally BournerChief Supt Sally Bourner

"Lye is an area in which we’re working really hard with our colleagues in the council and with the local councillors and most importantly with involving local people.

"We’ve set up a Streetwatch scheme in Lye involving residents working with the local neighbourhood team. I would stress this isn’t about vigilantes. This is about local residents taking responsibility, getting involved, helping to make their neighbourhood an even better place."

But she stressed there was more work to be done, adding: "Concerns are still being raised, but we need local people from across the community to help and to see Lye as a place where people can come together from across different communities and to welcome new people coming into the community and help them play a positive part as well."

Councillors say their next surgery in Lye will be at the community centre on Friday September 6 from 5pm.