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Thursday, 24 July 2014

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Carlisle estate project hailed a success

A project to help residents take control of their own neighbourhood has led to a cut in crime and boosted living standards, according to the latest research.

Together We Can scheme photo
Barnardo’s team, from left, volunteer Chloe Thomson, play co-ordinator Sue Marshall, play practitioner Vicki Mallinson and development officer Lezley Wilson

The Together We Can project, piloted in Carlisle’s Harraby estate and Longtown four years ago, questioned city residents and found a drop in anti-social behaviour, improved safety and satisfaction levels, and better outdoor spaces.

The survey found people were happier living in Harraby and looked at how it could develop in the future.

Liz Jackson, manager of Harraby community centre, said Together We Can had carried out several projects over the past few years from community events at the centre to redeveloping neighbouring Keenan park and setting up a BMX track on wasteground.

“We’ve also done smaller projects cleaning up the estate,” she said. “We’ve got all the agencies on board and we meet once a month in the community centre to discuss what’s coming up.”

The community empowerment project was set up after the announcement that the North Cumbria Technology College was merging to form an academy with St Aidan’s to become Richard Rose Central Academy.

“That was a big topic for us and the starting point,” Liz explained. She said current issues involved Pennine school moving across the road and what would happen to the old site, with residents concerned about more housing being built there.

Users of Harraby community centre agreed with the results of the survey and said the area had improved significantly over the past few years.

“My family has links with the Harraby area for years and I think it’s a lot better,” said Sharrell Davidson, 28, of Manor Road, Upperby. “I’ve seen a big difference, particularly with the kids. You don’t see them hanging round the streets like they used to, there’s not as much vandalism. That’s all stopped.”

Thirty-two-year-old Emma Lavery agreed. “Since they’ve [improved] the park, it’s great,” she said. “Now they’ve got the cameras up there, the vandalism has stopped.”

Both mums use the soft play facilities at the community centre and said that, plus Barnado’s classes for kids, were great. “It’s absolutely brilliant,” said Sharrell, who has a two-year-old son Sonny. “The staff are lovely and everyone’s friendly. I come to meet Emma but you’re made to feel welcome and I wouldn’t worry about coming on my own.”

Emma, of Pennine Way, Harraby, said she had been using the centre for six months with son Morgan, two, and six-month-old daughter Lacey. “Lots of people come from other areas outside Harraby,” she said.

Thirty-year-old Lucy Meadley takes her twins Alex and Robin, 18 months, to soft play.

“The centre is great and everyone’s friendly,” she said. “I’m here twice a week usually.”

Susan Marshall, a play co-ordinator with Barnado’s, said the centre had developed many more classes and events since the project was created.

“It’s got a lot busier over the last few years,” she said. “There’s a lot more going on.”

Lezley Wilson, Barnado’s group development officer, said the introduction of the library – which used to be kept in the school - meant they were seeing older people coming in, and younger ones visiting to do their homework.

They ran a parents forum so people could say what they would like to see on offer.

  • Together We Can is developing a community plan and a discussion event will be held at the centre on November 20 from 6pm to 8pm for residents to find out more.

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