Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120
TUESDAY 6 NOVEMBER 2001
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
(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
(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.
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
(Mr Unwin) Yes.
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
127. What about gated passageways in terraced
(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
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 attitudeit
is not just anecdotalthat 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
(Mr Unwin) Yes.
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.
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 thingsyou probably have a long
listwhat 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?