THEY provided a rare splash of colour in the heart of the city.

Residents of a Southampton street worked hard to create a horticultural oasis by planting and tending communal flowerbeds that brightened up their neighbourhood.

But while the roses, geraniums and laveteria were welcomed by neighbours and passers-by, they became the innocent victims of a police crackdown on crime.

Officers asked council bosses to cut back bushes that they claimed gave cover to drug dealers using the area.

But council workers not only removed shrubs, they ripped up flowerbeds that had been adopted by Rockstone Lane residents who bought plants and spent hours maintaining them.

Furious residents described the scene of destruction as “a mindless act of hooliganism”.

Now a council chief has admitted the blunder, apologised and pledged to return the border to its previous condition.

Phil Zelkin, who lives in Rockstone Lane, was one of many angered by the council’s actions.

He said: “This mindless act of hooliganism and destruction is the most appalling act by our local council and they must be held to account.

“There can be no excuse with this incident, as the gardens in central Southampton are kept to a very good standard, so why should Rockstone Lane be treated any different?”

Aimee Greenwood, landlady of the nearby Rockstone pub, added: “It complemented the lane and made the area look lovely.

“It was obvious that it was being tended so we don’t understand why they did it.”

Southampton’s housing and leisure boss, Cllr Warwick Payne, said: “The parks team acted with good intentions in trying to assist the police in reducing crime in the neighbourhood, but clearly should have consulted with local residents before carrying out these actions and we are sorry they didn’t.

“Clearly we will put this right so that local residents have no cost and no inconvenience, but we will seek their views and those of the police to agree a replanting scheme that meets all needs.

“We very much hope that local residents will continue their active and valued engagement in the care and maintenance of their local green space.”

A Hampshire Police spokesman said: “We asked the council to cut back some the shrubbery at a site meeting as this would help to improve surveillance to try and stop the drug-related criminal activities going on in the area which local residents are keen for us to deal with.

“With the shrubbery cut back it makes it far easier to keep an eye on and, in turn, as it makes the area more exposed, it will hopefully help put people off from drug dealing there because they can be more easily seen.”