Avondale Grange: ‘A knife seems to be the must have accessory’

In our fourth report this week from one of the county’s left behind communities we hear from residents about rising crime and visit a community allotment helping brighten lives

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By Sarah Ward

At the start of this week a social media post was shared of a face-masked man appearing to pull a large knife from his tracksuit bottoms and threatening the couple walking behind him before racing off through the Grange shops in Kettering on an electric scooter.

It’s what people were talking about when we went along to the area this week to ask residents about their views on where they live. Other recent crimes such as serious sexual assault and the anti-social activities of young people on the street are also a hot topic of conversation.

“It seems like a knife is the must have fashion accessory,” says Ady, who has come down to the Grange resource centre in the shopping precinct as usual for a cuppa and a chat with friends.

“Someone is going to die or get seriously injured soon,” his friend Lorraine agrees.

The couple and others in the centre, which opens as a cafe twice a week, tell us about the issues the estate and its shopping precinct are currently experiencing.

They talk of teenagers running across the roof tops and harassing people who come to the shops after dark. The sign at the front of the resource centre has recently been smashed and the colourful floral display put into a large planter in the centre has been ripped out so only barren soil remains.

“A good comparison to the Grange estate is to call it a modern day dodge city,” says Ady, who has lived in the area for the past decade, relocating from Norfolk to be near his children.

“You don’t look at people,” says Lorraine. “I keep my head down and don’t look anyone in the eye anymore as it is enough to get you into an argument”.

The centre, which acts as a community centre and is part funded by the local authority, is a welcome refuge for Lorraine, who suffered a stroke several years ago and now uses a wheelchair. She says it’s a lifeline as she does not get out anywhere else and has made good friends.

But during the seven years she has lived on the Grange estate she has seen the community seriously decline.

We have come down to the estate as part of our Levelling Up series - looking at the five officially left behind communities in the county.

Alongside estates in Corby, Wellingborough and Northampton, the Grange estate has been marked out as among the most deprived and resource poor in England and the residents who we spoke to agree with the verdict.

According to the latest government deprivation data from 2019 the Grange estate ranks as the most deprived in the county on the Income Deprivation Affecting Children index. The index is calculated using data related to health, income, education, housing and crime overlaid with income deprivation, concentrating on children aged 0-15. 

The area of the Grange estate encompassing Kathleen Drive and Washington Square falls within the one per cent most deprived areas for children in the country.

According to government research one in three children in our left behind communities live in poverty.

Speaking to residents there is talk of many parents with long term drug and alcohol addictions and it becomes clear that unsupervised children causing trouble on the streets is a major concern and is affecting the lives of many.

The owner of the local laundrette has been plagued this summer by a gang of youngsters, some as young as ten. They have run riot in her shop, climbed into washing machines, poured fizzy drink on the surfaces and smeared sanitiser on the windows. 

“I dread it when the schools close,” she says. “During the school holidays they come to the precinct and play football using my shop front and the one opposite as a goal.

“But if you try and tell them to stop it makes it worse. They are out till all hours and you don’t often see the parents.”

“They are ruining businesses definitely. I love my business but if someone had come in here last week and said ‘Do you want to sell it?’ I’d have snatched their hand off.”

She says the police are rarely seen in the area. “Police are ignoring it,” she says. They don’t come when you call them”.

Vanessa, who helps out in the community centre, used to run a youth club with friend Claire from the now closed Grange Church.

They ran the club from 2004 to 2010, but then the county council dismantled the county’s youth services by taking away a huge chunk of the funding and leaving many children without anywhere to go in the evenings.

Vanessa says the cuts are being felt today.

“We did so many projects with our young people, many of whom went on to university and now have good careers.

“It wasn’t a drop in, young people had to commit to come every week - because life is not a drop in.

“We were funded by the county council, but then the cuts happened.

“That was a biggie - the effects have been huge.”

However on the estate is a green oasis in the form of the Green Patch - a 2.5 acre community allotment run by Groundwork Northamptonshire, a national charity which brings communities together to tackle poverty and improve the environment.

Opened in 2005, it is nationally acclaimed and alongside running after school clubs, community and adult volunteer days, plus operating a veg box scheme, it takes referrals from schools to work with children who are struggling to fit into mainstream education or may have issues at home.

And the allotment is not just helping youngsters. Grange resident Philip is a volunteer at the centre and he says going down to the gardens helps with his anxiety.

“I had a job where I kept getting anxious and so coming down here helps me deal with my stress,” he says. He finds the area ‘alright’ to live in but says he is having issues with some nuisance neighbours.

Lack of services is another issue being felt. On Central Avenue we talk to Deresha who is waiting to catch a bus into town.

The mother of an autistic son, she says she is contemplating leaving the area due to lack of services. After taking her son out of mainstream education and being unable to get him an Educational Health Care Plan, she now homeschools him. However she is finding there are not many services for homeschooling parents like herself.

“We have to travel to Northampton or Wellingborough by bus to meet up with other parents and do activities as there is a much more established home school community there. Long term we need to relocate to access services.

“I have never wanted to live anywhere else until this year,” she says. “This is my home but I’m prepared to leave it”.

Tomorrow’s final report in our week long series from our Left Behind Communities will be from the Queensway estate in Wellingborough.

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