Monday, February 08, 2010

Springfield PACT

Our second Springfield PACT meeting this evening - again a good turnout, with around 15 residents coming out on a cold winter's evening.

One of the PACT's priorities is tackling anti-social behaviour in the area. We spent a good while discussing problems in Riverside Way and Wheeldale Close - the police and the council's ASB team were already aware of the problem, and residents in Wheeldale Close reported that disturbances had ceased in the last 2 weeks. Perhaps inevitably, in adjacent Riverside Way, youths are now starting to cause problems.

A feature of the area are the number of snickets that were incorporated into the estate's design. These must have seen like a great idea back when the houses were planned, but certainly on and off for the last 20 years or so, they have acted as a focus for ASB.

This isn't a problem confined to Haughton West or indeed Darlington - whether it's cuts or back lanes or alleys, the 'out-of-the-way' areas of where we live can be the source of major problems. Closing them off, which is the response residents generally think is most sensible, is however a very different matter.

Going back several years, we were able to tackle the problem effectively through closure - the cuts from Mendip Grove onto Martindale Road, from the field behind Belsay Walk onto Belford Gardens, and the snicket between Wheeldale Close and Littlebeck Drive are cases in point. Now however, the legal advice is quite clear - the legislation makes closing these footpaths very difficult indeed.

There have been changes in the rules governing the closure of alleyways, however, and it was agreed that now is the right time to have another look at what the community wants to do with the cuts around Wheeldale Close. In concert with the police, the Council's ASB team and local residents, we will start by circulating a questionnaire in the affected streets to gauge local opinion. It will help ascertain exactly what the problems are, and how local people would like the authorities to respond.

Once we've liaised with all the local partners on a draft letter, they should be delivered to local households by the beginning of next week. We'll be reporting back to residents on the results at the next PACT meeting.

4 comments:

miketually said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
miketually said...

The cuts can make a pretty big difference for people getting through to Hutton Avenue to catch the bus, or for children walking back from school more directly. Anything that makes walking or cycling less direct is a backward step and should be resisted.

Is there really such a big problem with ASB on Riverside Way? My in-laws live there and haven't mentioned anything. We live at the end and so walk along there frequently, as well as walking the dog on the field, and we've not noticed anything either.

Anonymous said...

look at this
http://www.sunderlandecho.com/news/Tories-go-for-Lee-in.3067501.jp

Darlington Councillor said...

Thanks, Mike.

You highlight one of the dilemmas about these cut-throughs. If they are still in use, and valued by at least some local residents, then they are very difficult to close, unless it can be demonstrated that they create significant ASB problems (drugs, muggings etc).

The purpose of the survey will be to take the views of every resident who lives in Wheeldale Close and Riverside Way. I'm not sure that the network of little snickets are all universally valued, but we'll have to wait and see.

What I don't want to do is raise hopes unrealistically - the legal position makes closing these things very very diffcult, and Sgt Edmunds at the PACT meeting pointed out that in 2 places in Darlington where there was a strong argument for closing footpaths (one I think was Kensington Gardens in Bank Top) the bid had nonetheless failed.

It has been some time, however, since the issue was last addressed in the area - at least 5 years from memory - and given some changes in legislation, now is the time to have a fresh look and 'take the temperature' locally.

Hence the survey. What the outcome will be, I simply can't predict.