'Big changes' on the way to Sheffield estate 'sinking' due to crime and overcrowding

Police in Wensley Street, Firth Park, after the fatal stabbing of Sami Khaled Saif Al-Sarsoori on September 9.
Police in Wensley Street, Firth Park, after the fatal stabbing of Sami Khaled Saif Al-Sarsoori on September 9.
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Councillors have promised residents of a 'sinking' Sheffield estate that they will start to see positive changes soon.

Firth Park has been blighted by serious crime in recent weeks, with the fatal stabbing of Sami Alsaroori on September 10 the latest in a spate of major incidents in the neighbourhood.

Crime is an issue.

Crime is an issue.

But it is ongoing issues with antisocial behaviour, overcrowding and dangerous housing that has had residents calling for action in recent weeks.

Mike Sheldon, a 35-year resident of Ellerton Road, felt so strongly he took a petition to last week's full council meeting.

Explaining the problems, he pleaded with councillors to do whatever was in their power to fix them.

"I have seen this go to one of the worst living areas not only in Sheffield but in the country in the last 10 years," he said.

Overcrowding is a problem in Firth Park, according to residents.

Overcrowding is a problem in Firth Park, according to residents.

"I have lost £60,000 on the value of my property. It’s all down to overcrowding and antisocial behaviour.

"I want the council’s help to bring this area back to what it should be, like when I moved in."

In an emotional speech Mr Sheldon told councillors that people were afraid to walk their dogs at night or go to the shops.

He said nurses working at nearby Northern General Hospital were getting taxis there and back rather than walking through Firth Park.

Residents want to see the area cleaned up.

Residents want to see the area cleaned up.

"It’s disgusting, what’s happening, and you are the people to stop it right now," Mr Sheldon said.

He said he had seen people urinating out of windows, and witnessed Hucklow Primary School children walking along streets lined with rubbish and used needles.

And perhaps most worryingly he highlighted a recent case where gas engineers found 12 cases of people bypassing the meter with bicycle inner tubes within two streets.

"We are sinking and it’s about time that Sheffield Council got hold of the landlords and made them responsible and put them in court for what they are doing to normal people like me and my wife," Mr Sheldon said.

"It’s putting our lives at risk. The police know about it and the council know about it and for six months it has been swept under the carpet. Nothing is being done.

"Why aren’t they charging these people? If one of those gas meters goes up - which it will do eventually - it won’t just take the road, it will take the school as well."

British Gas this week told The Star gas theft was a 'serious issue' which 'places lives at risk',

Head of customer services field recoveries Andy Norman said the firm was working with authorities across the UK to tackle the issue.

The council's cabinet member for housing Jayne Dunn responded directly to Mr Sheldon, inviting him for a meeting to discuss the issues.

She said work was being done behind the scenes, and highlighted the recent switch back to a neighbourhood policing model.

And Coun Dunn called for national help to tackle the issues.

"Far too often courts are far too lenient," she said. "Hopefully the Government will be giving us more powers so we can take that further.

"We need more funding but I’m determined to make a difference in that area. You will be seeing some big changes."

Mark Jones is one of the Burngreave ward councillors, and is well aware of the issues Firth Park faces.

He said there were long-term issues that stemmed from economic downturn and cuts to council services and the police.

"I have been in contact with Mike for many months," he said.

"I wish it was unique but it isn’t - it’s something that many people have experienced for many years."

Coun Jones said he often heard calls for the selective licensing used in Page Hall to be expanded to Firth Park, so landlords would be required to meet certain conditions such as dealing with overcrowding.

But that would not be a 'catch-all answer', he said.

"We are using new powers under housing legislation to try to maintain standards," said Coun Jones. We are sending out inspectors to ensure overcrowding is reduced.

"Sometimes landlords know about it, but other times they probably don’t. They don’t necessarily know who’s living in a house."

Tampering with gas supplies is a big worry for Coun Jones, who said people were 'essentially turning their home into a bomb'.

He urged British Gas to do more.

"I’m very concerned. I don’t want to see anyone die," he said.

"Anecdotally we do have many properties where they have made similar bypasses. Twelve in two streets is monstrous.

"We all have a role to play. Don’t bypass your meter, do pay your bills. But also where there’s bill been paid for over a year, cut the gas supply."

And Coun Jones also warned against an approach that tried to focus on community 'leaders', particularly with Roma people who may have come to Sheffield from a wide variety of countries.

"We have worked closely with the Roma, we have tried to build a relationship with people. But could you say there is one person to talk to? Probably not," he said.

"We do need to reach out more and ensure we are not creating self-selecting community leaders that don’t represent that population."

And Coun Jones said work should not just focus on new arrivals to Sheffield.

"Yes, we should welcome people if they come here to contribute," he added. "But let’s not forget about those communities they are going into. We have got to look after everyone."