Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120 - 139)



Dr Pugh

  120. Can I take you to the subject of crime? It affects payment for property in Gorton. How would you put crime down as a factor?
  (Mr Unwin) Crime is the most visible of the disincentives and therefore one of the causes of negative equity. For people wanting to sell their properties, whilst it may not be the most powerful underlying factor, it is one that distresses people the most and therefore is given as the most frequent reason for people wanting to move out of their premises. It might be that the house has been burgled next door or they may have been mugged in the street. A lot of the crime we encounter is not necessarily from this area. A lot of it is people coming from outside of the area, mainly gangs and youths causing mayhem in certain streets. A lot of people find it very difficult to withstand that pressure.

  121. Have there been any successful crime reduction initiatives?
  (Mrs Newing) We have had several local initiatives. We have a very good working relationship with the police. We meet with them regularly to discuss the issues we have. They have various operations, Operation Sprint, Operation Hawk and, when it is the school holidays they put operations because one of the problems we have is the youths and antisocial behaviour. This is coming back to the rented property. They are not well kept. They are the old sash windows and they have not been modernised. It is the families who move into them who do not look after them and bring the rougher elements with them.

  122. You say that crime figures notionally have dropped?
  (Mr Unwin) Yes. Due to the amount of pressure that we as a residents' association have applied, they have reduced. House breaking and car crime also. Within the community, we have put out leaflets to help the police, crime prevention leaflets, but to be able to sustain that in the long term would be quite hard. It is because it is still a viable community that we have been able to do that.


  123. Crime has been reduced but has it reduced the fear of crime?
  (Mr Unwin) No.

Dr Pugh

  124. Why do you think that is so?
  (Mr Unwin) In the short term, you can say that the crime statistics are down but they remember the last crime they saw during the last five years. Elderly people compare crime with when they lived in the fifties and sixties when these levels of crime were not prevalent.

  125. It is still a problem of the perception of crime?
  (Mr Unwin) Yes.

Christine Russell

  126. You said at the beginning that you would like to see some instant morale boosters and one of the suggestions was street furniture. If you are advocating that on the one hand, you have also just said that one of the problems is the influx of youngsters coming into the area from neighbouring areas. Are not those benches going to be a magnet?
  (Mr Unwin) I was not using the word "furniture" literally. What I meant was not benches necessarily. I meant signs: "You are entering Abbey Hey" and so on. My experience of the youth problem is not one of them sitting or standing; they will collect round a traffic light and just congregate. I do not think a bench necessarily would be a deterrent or an incentive to them. From public buildings that I am involved with in the area, if you make them attractive, that is a deterrent to crime. If a light is smashed and you replace it quickly, that is the best deterrent.


  127. What about gated passageways in terraced properties?
  (Mrs Newing) That is one of the problems of crime because we have terraced properties and they are not gated off. We are not part of any regeneration area or renewal area. The areas around Abbey Hey are and they are all getting gates so crime should be reduced in their area but it will be pushed into Abbey Hey because we have these longer terraced streets with narrow back alleys where undesirables can get. The three applications we have submitted this year for a cash grant scheme have been rejected.

Dr Pugh

  128. You mentioned young people engaging in crime but presumably, with a good comprehensive in the area, there are positive people to relate to? Are they not asking for something or have they not been consulted?
  (Mrs Newing) Yes. Recently, we held a fun day, a consultation day, for the youths. I am very proud to say that the people all worked, with or without pay, and we used the school hall. We did activities for them, football, face painting and so on. It was very different for them in the opportunities it provided.

  129. What I have noticed is an isolated pocket of new development within the area. What effect do you think that has had on the area? Has it been positive or negative?
  (Mr Unwin) Which new housing are you referring to?

  130. Where there are new build properties adjoining the area or inside the area.
  (Mr Unwin) The new, private housing has worked successfully. There are two private estates that have been built within Abbey Hey and there is a good take-up of that property. House prices have not rocketed; they have remained stable. You may have noticed a block of four, three floored council flats called Bellamy Court which the council are in the process of getting and demolishing. We think that would best be served by building private houses rather than any further flat development. We think that would be highly successfully.

  131. So generally positive?
  (Mr Unwin) Yes.


  132. You do not think it undermines the market for the terraced properties? Some of the new build will be £35,000 or £40,000, probably twice the price of the terraced properties in terms of value for money. Would it not be tending to undermine the market for the terraced properties?
  (Mr Unwin) I do not think it undermines the terraced properties. People either look at a semi-detached in Abbey Hey or they will move out into Denton and Reddish in the Chairman's constituency where there is a greater number of semis and detached housing. They will look at what housing type they want rather than in terms of value within Abbey Hey.

  133. How competitive do you think the estate agents' market is within the area?
  (Mr Unwin) I think it is poor. It tends to be almost monopolistic in the Abbey Hey area and there is an attitude—it is not just anecdotal—that prices are depressed because estate agents tend to judge things by their own standards and where they would like to live. They feel more at home dealing with landlords than with prospective purchasers. It is unsympathetic and it is not an area that will attract other estate agents to move in. That is a weakening factor which we mention in our submission.

  134. Do you see there is a clash of interest between an estate agent who is selling property and managing rented property?
  (Mr Unwin) Yes.

Christine Russell

  135. You have talked very positively about your relationships with the police. You have pointed out how good you think the local schools are. My colleague asked about youth services and early years. What is the provision like for parents in the area? Have you registered child minders? Is there a nursery school? Is there a lack of child care?
  (Mrs Newing) We have registered child minders in the area and there is a nursery school but it is outside the area in Higher Openshaw. The primary school does have a pre-school nursery and there are quite good child facilities in the area.

  136. What about youth facilities for the teenagers?
  (Mrs Newing) The facilities are very poor.

  137. What are you doing as a residents' association to try to improve them? Who are you working with?
  (Mrs Newing) We have joined forces with a group, the Gorton and Abbey Hey Action Project, and we have a meeting tonight to discuss the various fun days we have had already and how we can go forward to provide the services that the youths require. We now have a shopping list from the youth of what they want. Some things are very simple. Some want a couple of football posts put on a piece of land, which is not beyond anybody's capabilities. Others want youth clubs and things resembling Alton Towers but we are addressing that as one of the main issues. We have joined with other groups to try and pressure the youth services and early years interests because there is a distinct lack of facilities.

Helen Jackson

  138. Do you feel you have the support of the City Council generally in what you are trying to do for the area?
  (Mrs Newing) Yes. We are a new group. Before we were established, people did not know about us but now we known about we are getting a lot of support.

  139. If you were going to ask the City Council to do one or perhaps two things—you probably have a long list—what would the top two or three things be?
  (Mrs Newing) The top one would be to address the housing issue. Second would be to address the youth facilities.

  Chairman: On that note, can I thank you very much for your evidence?

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