Friday brief: All three schoolboys fatally stabbed on Northants' streets were from ‘left behind' areas
Plus lots of other news from across the county
Lots of news in this week’s Friday brief and more on the tragic murder of Northampton Schoolboy Fred Shand. His death is still being keenly felt within the Kingsthorpe community where it happened and the nearby Kings Heath estate where he lived.
The three schoolboys killed in the county in less than two years, all lived in a ‘left behind’ area.
Rohan ‘Fred’ Shand, 16, was killed on March 22 as he walked home from Kingsthorpe College. A vigil was held on Wednesday in the Kings Heath area of Northampton where he lived, with large numbers from the community coming out to mourn the loss of the teenager.
Kings Heath along with the Talavera ward of Northampton, Queenways in Wellingborough, Avondale Grange in Kettering and Kingswood and Hazel Leys in Corby, are all officially recognised by the government as ‘left behind areas’. These are places which have high levels of deprivation coupled with a lack of social amenities.
Rohan’s death is the third of a school child from a left behind area. Rayon Pennycook, 16, was killed on the Hazel Leys estate in May 2021 and three months later Dylan Holliday, 16, died after being stabbed on the Queensway estate.
Cllr James Hill, who is the chair of the unitary council’s diverse communities forum, says his committee will hold a special meeting about knife crime at the town’s Guildhall. The date is to be confirmed.
“I think the problem is that the work that is being done is being done so by one or two agencies, but we need to bring everybody in. I think there is a lack of understanding from the police about the issues and how social media is being used.
“It also feels that there is a general sense of apathy. We need to get a grip of it.”
NN Journal undertook a 12-month project last year to understand some of the issues that were affecting the left behind areas. Knife crime was a huge concern for all of the areas, and we spoke with head teacher of Kings Heath Primary Kim Duff, who explained her concerns for the young children growing up in the area. (Listen to the podcast episode).
Two teenagers, 16 and 14, have been charged with the murder of Fred Shand and are going through the courts. They cannot be named for legal reasons.
News in brief
The cabinet of West Northamptonshire Council has agreed to look at setting up a task and finish group about whether therapeutic services for children in care can be restarted. It comes after a motion from the Lib Dems.
A Northamptonshire campaigner has teamed up with a well-known instant noodle brand to draw attention to the state of roads around the country.
Mark Morrell, known as Mr Pothole, lives in Brackley and has teamed up with Pot Noodle.
The UK’s coldest winter for 12 years has wreaked havoc on already damaged roads.
Mr Morrell is encouraging people to share pictures of the worst potholes on social media using the hashtag #NothingFillsAHoleLikePotNoodle so more potholes can be identified and shared with councils.
Some of the potholes will also be filled in – temporarily – with Pot Noodles to the highlight the problems they can pose.
“Potholes drive road users potty, me more than most. The pothole crisis across the UK is an increasingly serious issue and something that I have been campaigning for for over 10 years,” Mr Morrell said.
Report by Nathan Briant, Local Democracy Reporter
A senior councillor believes it will be more difficult to build new homes in Northampton after a number of sites earmarked for development were ruled off-limits.
Councillor Adam Brown, deputy leader of West Northamptonshire Council, (WNC) spoke out after a Government planning inspector disallowed several sites WNC had hoped to build on.
WNC councillors, including Cllr Brown, approved an official plan for the town that was prepared by Northampton Borough Council before it was dissolved in 2021. The Northampton Local Plan 2 outlines where building should be permitted and went to formal inspection in November 2021.
Following that, the planning inspector in charge of it told WNC to strike out projects to build on allotments at Studland Road and on land off Fraser Road, along with other sites. They said proposed development at the allotments and the other green spaces was “not consistent with national policy nor [was] this justified”.
Cllr Brown said that meant a plan for 125 “desperately needed” new social homes off Fraser Road would be scrapped. At the moment, approximately 4,000 people are on the council’s housing register.
Report by Nathan Briant
The West unitary will pay a family more than £7,000 in compensation after it failed to ensure a child with autism received a proper education for nearly two years. Multiple failures were found in the way West Northamptonshire Council (WNC), formed in 2021, dealt with the child’s case.
In a blistering report by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO), WNC was revealed to have caused the child “significant physical and mental distress” and failed to communicate as it said it would with the child’s mother. The LGO said despite repeated requests for comment, WNC failed to respond at “the earliest opportunity” and only then after the report process had begun.
As a result of the LGO’s findings, the council will review the cases of eight children with special educational needs (SEND), who have also been out of school for long periods. The LGO will also need to “signpost” the cases and their parents to the ombudsman if they too are dissatisfied with the council’s actions.
WNC’s cabinet member for children Cllr Fiona Baker, said council members were “disappointed” and “sorry” to have “previously fallen short” but had accepted the LGO’s findings.
The LGO found that from 2021, the child was left isolated in a separate room in a mainstream primary school. The school said it was not meeting the child’s needs in “any way, shape or form”.
WNC agreed a plan with the school and the child’s parents but then did not follow through and finalise the plan when it should have. The LGO said it had found WNC was aware the child was “not receiving the education and support they needed” at the time but “did not act robustly or quickly enough to find a more suitable school”.
The authority will pay the family a total of £7,125 for its failures and distress caused. The child’s parents started court action against WNC last September.
The child’s mother told the LGO that she “did not want and would not accept” an apology from WNC. The child had been due to start at their new school sometime this year and was unable to start any earlier because it was at capacity.
Michael King, the LGO, said:
“I’m pleased the council has agreed to the recommendations I have made to remedy the situation for the family, but it should not have taken the threat of a public interest report for them to have done so.”
Cllr Baker added:
“Like many other local authorities facing a lack of places for children and young people with SEND, we hear first-hand the impact this is having on them and their families and know more must be done to support them.
“That’s why we have been prioritising these issues with work well under way on an action plan that will see a significant increase in SEND places. We are absolutely committed to making this happen, however we know this change can’t all happen overnight.”
Earlier this month, WNC approved a new £1.1m special needs unit at Northampton’s Hunsbury Park Primary School for up to 50 children. Another plan is progressing on a new special school in Tiffield with WNC, developers and the Greenwood Multi Academy Trust.
Report by Nathan Briant
The North unitary was accused of incompetence and ignorance in its handling of the Wellingborough Walks debacle.
There will now be a delay to any tree felling but Wellingborough residents lined up at the council’s meeting last night to vent their frustration with how it has handled the matter. There has been much confusion over whether developer Vistry had the right to cut down the trees and now the council and the developer are blaming each other for how the situation came about.
Tree campaigner Marion Turner-Hawes said:
“This council has a fundamental role in both ensuring the effective operation of planning systems within the area and the proper delivery of the tree protection process. But what we have seen over the past few weeks is an organisation unable to find or share key documents and with seemingly little understanding about the role it plays in operating all tree preservation orders.” 15 lime trees have been felled so far and others could come down.
South Northamptonshire MP Andrea Leadsom presented a petition to parliament this week on behalf of a number of villages in her constituency this regarding concerns about Anglia Water’s service.
. . . Anglian Water should adequately address the very many ongoing concerns and poor service across South Northamptonshire including with pressure fluctuations and burst water mains in Maidford; persistent sewage odours and broken sewage mains in Whittlebury; frequent occurrences of low pressure and no water in Weston, Weedon Lois, Adstone and Towcester; sewage released into the River Nene at Cogenhoe; closure of the St Loys CEVA Primary Academy due to no water, notes that residents in the village of Eydon have experienced a series of burst water mains that have cut off the water supply to the village for a protracted period.”
NN Journal carried out an analysis of Hansard and found that of the county’s seven MPs only MP for North Northampton Michael Ellis was not recorded as have taken part in any parliamentary business all month.
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