A CROESYCEILIOG church has been forced to close its gates for the first time in 100 years after being targeted by a series of instances of anti-social behaviour.

Over the past few months, the church has had windows broken, its noticeboard smashed, and issues with dog mess in the grounds.

And over the weekend, the church took the decision to lock the gates to the grounds, however that did not prevent further vandalism.

A group of vandals jumped the gates, smoked class A drugs, dumped a bag of rubbish which had been taken from someone’s garden and left human excrement on the steps to the church.

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Church warden Paul Austin said: “The problems here at the church have concerned and upset me,” he said. “After 100 years we have had to close the gates. Despite that, we had youths jump over the fence and goods were taken from the garden, there was drug paraphernalia there and one of them had defecated on the steps.

“It’s deplorable and disgusting.

“I don’t understand why they did it. I don’t know what the answer is. I thought with the coronavirus, we would all pull together as a community."

Mr Austin said they believed the incident took place on after 4pm on Friday and before midday on Sunday.

He said he hoped more could be done to engage young people in the community to prevent things like this happening in the future.

“I feel sorry for the youths. It’s no excuse, but there is nothing to do for them now,” he said.

“I think they need to be listened to so we can hear what they think they need from society. If you respect them, they will respect you.

“If you bring councillors, youth workers, the police and some of the lads who are doing this sort of thing together, we can try and work out what we can all do to help them and stop this happening in the future.”

Mr Austin said he did not know when the gates would be unlocked again.

“It’s been ongoing for months now. We have had windows broken, noticeboards smashed, and the groundsman who gave up his time for free to look after the grounds had to stop because there was such a big issue with dog mess," he said.

“We’ve had to close the gates. We don’t want that; we want the community to be able to use our facilities. The church is about socialising and community. It’s a problem, as it means now for those who use the church, it’s basically now by appointment only.

“It is sad that after 100 years, we have had to shut the gates. I don’t think we’ll be opening them again soon. It comes to a point where you have to say enough is enough.”