Gangs of youths are drinking in one of Chester’s most important heritage landmarks and using ancient Roman artefacts as bar stools, say police.

Over the past few months police have been called dozens of times to the Roman Gardens after reports of groups of teenagers using the heritage site as a ‘hang out’.

Residents contacted police after seeing groups of as many as 30 youths drinking in the visitor’s attraction, leaving bottles of alcohol among the columns and carvings which were recovered from the Roman fortress of Deva.

Police also believe the youths are responsible for anti-social behaviour in the Princess Street car park, where several fires have been started in the past few weeks.

The youths are thought to have started hanging out in the gardens as an alternative to Grosvenor Park, which is undergoing refurbishment work, say police.

Now officers from Chester Inner Neighbourhood Policing Unit (NPU) are stepping up patrols in the area in an attempt to clampdown on anti-social behaviour which is in danger of spoiling the popular attraction for residents and tourists.

Despite increased patrols only just being put into practice, police have already confiscated bottles of alcohol from underage youths and moved groups on from the heritage site, after being tipped off by council wardens.

“It tends to happen on a Saturday night, when they are not in school,” said the police unit’s Sergeant Andy Burrage.

“They drink and tend to get a bit lairy and loud. It is not a massive problem at the moment, but it is a heritage site and we don’t want this to detract from a city attraction.

“We want other people to be able to enjoy the Roman Gardens.”