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.