Building hope in deprived estates in Somerset
- 22 February 2012
- From the section Somerset
How do you successfully regenerate run-down housing estates?
In Somerset, three different approaches are being tried by housing associations, community groups and the police to tackle the complex issue.
Yeovil: Building houses to create a better social mix
A £10m project in Yeovil led by Yarlington Housing Group has involved knocking down and rebuilding a housing estate in St George's.
It is a joint partnership between the housing association and Yeovil District Hospital.
Darrell Lock, from Yarlington Housing Group, "We're going to end up with 95 units, 36 of which will be a mix of key worker units for Yeovil Hospital and the remainder will be social, rented housing.
"The houses were built between 1945-48 and were suffering from concrete cancer and had essentially reached the end of their life."
Building work has got under way and is set to be finished in the summer.
"In July/August time we will have an influx of doctors moving into the finished apartments," he said.
"Essentially we looked to get funding from Homes and Community Agency - well that's pretty much dried up in recent years so we've had to look at other options, but clearly to mix the site improves the social aspect of it and allows us to fund the scheme.
"Social accommodation does have that stigma of the old council days, but times have changed and we very much hope the mix of professional doctors with those not so fortunate will mix and make a great community."
Highbridge: Police take the lead
In Highbridge, the police are taking a proactive approach to curb common problems like anti-social behaviour and drug-taking.
Community beat officer PC Adrian Jones said: "I think the most important thing is having trust and confidence of the community and you get that by making sure when they report something you deal with it positively in the way they think you should have dealt with it."
This approach has resulted in community-led activities such as litter picking days.
Margaret Williams, 74, who chairs Highbridge Dreamscheme, said: "They [the children] do jobs and they get points, which are turned into prizes so they can go on trips.
"Parents can't afford to send them, so we take on that job.
"It makes me feel useful, at my age if I can come out and do something useful, it shows I'm not past it."
Taunton: Community groups show the way
Halcon estate in Taunton was built after World War II to replace slum housing.
Although Taunton Deane Borough Council plans to knock down hundreds of run-down houses in Halcon, there has been a recent blossoming of community pride.
Projects which were initially publicly funded, such as school holiday leisure activities for children, community clean ups, a job club, a boxing club and youth club have been successfully taken over and continue to be run by local residents.
Denise Chidgey has been a volunteer at the Link community centre in Halcon for the past five years, since moving there in 2005.
"There wasn't much going on at all, but now we have the job club going, activity days, the clean-up day, there's more a sense of pride in the community, they want to get more together and do things together."
'Hopefully get bigger'
This show of community spirit has given hope to places such as Halcon and Highbridge - although social problems still exist.
"Hopefully it will carry on, the activity days have grown over the past two years, the first one we had 40 children and we have over 100," said Ms Chidgey.
"There are other things, we're hoping to start off a breakfast club in holiday time and will start small and hopefully get bigger."
But whether the plan to build new homes in Halcon, or in other deprived areas, will build community pride, holds some doubts.
"Obviously it will make the area look better and everything else, but it's just not the look of the area, it's the people, and the community in the area."