EUROPEAN-style ‘drug-taking rooms’ could be set up in Southampton in a bid to tackle dangerous drug litter on the city’s streets.

It comes after council cleaning staff discovered 7,000 pieces of drug paraphernalia - mostly discarded needles - in the city centre last year.

Civic chiefs are set to discuss a report, which suggests ‘drug consumption rooms’ (DCRs) as a way to provide addicts with a “safe and supervised” place to take their illegal substances.

The report says this could reduce the amount of hazardous drug litter, including disease-carrying needles, on the city’s streets.

However critics have urged caution over the introduction of so-called ‘shooting galleries’, with some raising fears it could promote criminality.

The idea is set to be discussed by civic chiefs this week, as part of a special probe into the city’s drug litter problem.

Councillors will look at how the scheme is widely used in Europe, particularly in Holland, Germany and Spain.

According to a report, set to be discussed by the inquiry on Thursday, DCRs can reduce disease transmission, prevent drug-related overdose deaths and connect high-risk users with social services.

If council bosses push forward with plans for such a centre, it would be the first in the UK.

NHS bosses in Glasgow previously toyed with bringing DCRs to the UK,going as far to purchase a building last year.

But plans were stalled by the Home Office, who raised concerns over its legality.

It is a view shared by Itchen MP, Royston Smith, who described the idea as a “sticky wicket”.

He said: “I do see there are some benefits, but I can understand why the government is concerned.

“These people will be getting their drugs through dealers, who are criminals, and some will be getting money for the drugs through criminal acts.”

Recent figures by the Office of National Statistics show that almost one in three drug overdoses in Europe were recorded in the UK, while Home Office statistics suggest that illegal drug use costs the economy over £10bn a year.

According to the figures, the biggest killer is heroin.

Drug support charity, Release, who support the implementation of DCRs, say they will not only improve public safety but will also save lives.

Communications officer, Avinash Tharoor, said: “Across the 10 countries in which DCRs operate, not a single person has died of an overdose in one.

“The rate of deaths related to opiates is at a record high in Southampton – so it imperative for authorities to embrace this life-saving measure.”

Public Health England says the government has “no plans” to introduce DCRs.

However, a spokesperson said it was down to local authorities and police chiefs how they deliver drug-related services.

City council safety chief, Dave Shields, and Hampshire policing boss, Michael Lane, both promised to look into the findings from the inquiry, set to end later this year.

Mr Lane, Hampshire's police and crime commissioner, said: “Drug consumption rooms could potentially help reduce the risk of harm for those drug users that choose to visit them, and may contribute towards a decrease in the amount of drug related litter. 

"And important though that is, I am not persuaded this approach helps solve the broader issue.

“There are wider populations and greater numbers who are adversely impacted by substance misuse. 

"To reduce this harm it is vital that the appropriate investment is focused on intervention and rehabilitation programmes.

"This, combined with activity to stop suppliers and remove their financial gains, is essential to reducing the harm caused by the use of illegal substances."

He added: “I would be interested to see any evidence gathered by those areas that have introduced consumption rooms as to the impact they have and how they link in with services that support those affected by substance misuse to provide a holistic approach.”

Last week, the city council published a report into crime in Southampton, which showed a 10 per cent increase.

Burglary, robbery and knife crime all saw significant rises, while drug related violence doubled in 2016/17.