VOLUNTEERS are needed help defuse potential incidents, relieve pressure on emergency services and offer a helping hand to vulnerable people on the streets of Oswestry.

Hopes are high a Street Angels group will be running Saturday-night patrols in the town by Christmas after discussions between police, nightspots and volunteers Tony Durnell and Glen Perkins.

“This is a serious team we’re going to get together – it’s not a talking shop,” Mr Durnell said.

“I know there are plenty of people in Oswestry who will come forward.”

Mr Durnell, chairman of Shropshire Crimestoppers and a former mayor of Shrewsbury, said he and Mr Perkins had spoken to Inspector Tracy Ryan and Sgt Claire Greenaway of West Mercia Police about setting up the group.

He said he and Mr Perkins knew of issues in pubs and clubs where “a lot of fractious events are going on” could be prevented if someone were able to offer help in a “gentle way”.

Street Angels was launched in November 2005 in response to issues in the night-time economy in Halifax, and is now involved in 130 projects across the country.

Mr Durnell said the Street Angels would provide somewhere for people with conditions such as autism to “catch their breath and have a little chat and go home”, or have transport arranged for them if necessary.

They would also offer a safe place for people who felt they were being followed from a pub or club, and then help them get home safely.

Mr Durnell said West Mercia Police had agreed to provide volunteers with first-aid experience and other training.

Street Angels would be based at Oswestry Police Station, and Mr Durnell added they they hoped to use a town-centre shop as a drop-in centre.

Street Angels will also offer items such as bottles of water, flip-flops and blankets to those in need.

They will be able to contact police and CCTV operators if need be.

Insp Ryan praised Street Angels volunteers for giving their own time to help people enjoy a night out and get home safely.

Volunteers must be over 18 years old, in good health and must pass a checking procedure.

Although Street Angels was founded by a Christian group, Mr Durnell said it was open to people of all beliefs, and that they wanted to “an eclectic mix of the diverse community of Oswestry”.

Mr Durnell said the scheme had support from Oswestry Pubwatch and that help from businesses would be gratefully accepted.

“We’re hoping the town council will come on board because it makes Oswestry a place where people want to stay, rather than go to Wrexham or Shrewsbury,” he said. “We want them to stay and feel safe in Oswestry.”

n For more information, call Mr Durnell on 01743 360 593 or look for the group’s Facebook page.