'It's a lot quieter than it was'
A year on from our first report, residents living on the Grange estate in Kettering tell us what's changed since
By Sarah Ward
In September last year we decided to put a focus on five areas in the county that have been officially recognised as left behind. Data around deprivation and community infrastructure had pointed out Kingswood and Hazel Leys in Corby, the Grange estate in Kettering, Wellingborough’s Queensway estate and the Talavera and Kings Heath parts of Northampton as among the 225 areas of the community where life for residents was the hardest.
We visited each of the areas, speaking with residents about the challenges they were facing in their daily lives and what was needed to put it right. Throughout the past 12 months we have returned to these communities for a number of stories, highlighting issues such as health inequalities, poor quality housing and the closure of community assets.
Now a year on we look at what changes have taken place in the past year for these communities and what still needs to be done.
In the third of our stories this week we report from the Grange estate in Kettering.
The situation in September 2021
Issues with teenage anti-social behaviour and knife crime were a major concern for residents living on the grange estate in Kettering, when we spoke to them last year. ‘A knife seems to be the must-have accessory’ was what one resident told us after a number of incidents, with many saying they were too frightened to go down to the shopping precinct after dark for fear of crime.
What has happened in the past year?
One year on residents tell us that things feel a bit brighter on the estate and that a more visible police presence has led to improvements, with the shopping precinct, which had been a focal point for crime and anti-social behaviour, becoming more peaceful.
This summer there was not the usual troublesome activity of some young people who had been known to run across the tops of the shopping roofs and pull up flowers out of the planters.
When we returned this week Lorraine, who we spoke to last year, was outside the resource centre, a community hub, which runs a weekly food bank and cafe.
“It has gotten a little bit better,” she says. There are still issues, but they don’t seem to be as bad. It is ok in the day, but it is at night when it gets bad.
“After this [the resource centre] closes there is nothing, there is very little for the young people to do.”
Angie Steel, a volunteer at the Resource Centre, tells us that issues had lessened after one particular family had moved off the estate.
“It is a lot quieter than it was,” she tells us. “The issues with crime appear to be drug addicts, on addicts. But they [the police] will never get a grip on the drugs, because it is run by bigger outside gangs.”
Another volunteer tells us, she is living next door to a family who are causing issues and it is ‘horrendous’.
The police now regularly come into the resource centre and chat with regulars and have their ear to the ground.
However, despite this and the praise from residents, the year-on-year crime figures up until June this year had recorded an almost 25 per cent increase in crime on the Grange estate, with more than 700 crimes logged in the area in the 12 months and a 125 per cent increase in sexual offences.
We asked Northants police what had been happening and why crime had increased.
They told us:
“The area is a priority area for the force and we are working with partners to tackle the issues.
“There is a PC and PCSO allocated to the area and both have been building up good relationships with the local community and hold regular surgeries on the estate. We have also been working with the local council around concerns at the local shops and these have been addressed, including working on the lighting in the area.
“Crime wise, we did have a rise in criminal damage which was caused by a specific group. A number of offenders were identified and they were offered diversionary activities by police and partner agencies due to their age.
“In regards to the sexual offences, a lot of these have involved the sharing of photos between younger people, which are offences due to their age. There is no risk to the wider public in regards to the rise.
“Drug offences have increased in the area and this is due to the increased police activity around warrants and patrols in the area.”
The area now also has its own dedicated community development worker, Wendy Ryan, who is funded by the local public health department.
Currently she is gathering information, with an event being held next week to find out from residents what more is needed and where particular problems lie. A new mums and tots group is also being established by Wendy, however it is out of the estate as there is a lack of community spaces.
A former church building, which is owned by the local authority, is set to be lost and there are plans to develop the site for housing.
The estate could also see a new family hub set up in the area - and NN Journal understands there are currently talks happening with the area’s primary school. The North Northamptonshire Council is one of 75 local authorities in the country that have been allocated funding to develop a family hub and start for life programme, which will see around £4m come into the North of the county over the next three years. This will involve a wide range of services from perinatal mental health support to parenting assistance and child feeding programmes.
Additional funding has also gone into the Ronald Tree Nursery, on Laburnum Crescent, which cares for and educates many of the young children in the area. This Spring the nursery, which is a maintained nursery, was given a £100,00 grant by North Northamptonshire Council to spend on improvements and also given additional money in its annual budget, which has enabled headteacher Debbie Thwaites to take on more staff.
The funding came after Debbie and other maintained nursery heads from the area had spoken out about the lack of money and the impact it was having on the support services they could offer to the children. At a council meeting at the end of March leader Cllr Jason Smithers decided to approve more money for the nurseries.
The funding has gone towards a refurbishment of the interior, with new flooring and decoration and has allowed new resources to be brought. There are also plans for a major outside renovation to include new play areas. Many of the children who use the nursery have their places funded, because their families are on low incomes.
Debbie says the money has made a big difference to the nursery and the experience children have.
“Since we did the nursery up the children play differently, as they now have so much respect for how it looks.”
She said the hope is now that the extra money that came into the budget continues, so that they can continue to offer a quality educational experience to the children who attend.
“It was hard for us to say we are struggling,” she said. “But we were. We’re not now, but we may be again.”
The issues within the Grange estate remain considerable and are likely to be made only worse by the current cost of living crisis which has seen the cost of goods rise due to inflation and energy bills soar due to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Even with the government’s pledges of support, many will be financially worse off this winter than last.
According to the English indices of deprivation 2019 [the latest data out there] the Kathleen Drive and Washington Square streets on the estate are among the top one per cent deprived areas in the country. They are the only streets in Northamptonshire that sit in the most deprived one per cent.
To help people have a daily meal the resource centre runs a weekly food bank, asking residents for a £1 donation to take away a bag of food, some of which is bought from its own funds and the other which is given to it through the FareShare scheme.
Widower Garry Morton, who has lived on the estate for thirty years, is one of the people who use the bank to help with the costs of living. His wife died two years ago and since then he has become a regular at the resource centre, often going there for a hearty low cost cooked breakfast.
He is worried about the cost of living.
“It is crazy,” he says. “Trying to pay the bills will be hard. I used to put £30 a month in my electricity metre; I put £50 in last Friday and have already spent £12.”
Tomorrow’s report will be from Northampton.
Read our earlier stories from this week