How Sheffield estate has worked together to banish the 'worst in Britain' tag

How do you solve issues on a Sheffield estate once labelled the ‘worst in Britain?’

Wednesday, 28th August 2019, 1:35 pm
Updated Thursday, 29th August 2019, 8:36 am

No, it’s not a trick question – that was the exact conundrum police officers were faced with on the Manor when South Yorkshire Police set up its neighbourhood police model in 2017.

Two years on, and while admitting they haven’t found all the answers, Temporary Sgt Tom Hollands believes police, councillors, schools and other agencies have worked together to help rid the area of the damaging label.

And our walkabout of the Manor and Arbourthorne area with Tom and his colleagues revealed a noticeable improvement from when MP Roy Hattersley branded Manor ‘the worst estate in Britain’ in 1995 after an arson attack destroyed a school.

Acting Temporary Sgt Tom Hollands, pictured in Angleton Park. Picture: Marie Caley

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Speaking about when he was first employed as part of South Yorkshire Police’s Manor and Arbourthorne team as a PC, Tom, who grew up in Hackenthorpe, said: “I know the estate well. My great-grandma and grandma used to live on it.

“I was excited but apprehensive at the same time because it was very different to anything else I’d done but I was aware that there were complex issues that we needed to deal with – pretty much like any other area of Sheffield.”

Tom said the biggest issue on the estate was a lack of communication and togetherness to address common problems on the estate. He also said that police were ‘chasing their own tails’ by working in a solely reactive way.

He added: “It was different for me and it took me a while to get my feet under the table but I love talking to people and I think most residents around Manor and Arbourthorne are the same so that’s what we did.

Acting Temporary Sgt Tom Hollands, pictured in Angleton Park. Picture: Marie Caley

“We spoke to people to find out what the issues were and went from there.”

The Manor and Arbourthorne team form part of the Sheffield South East neighbourhood police team (NHP), operating under the supervision of Insp Dave Struggles.

Made up of a sergeant, three PCs and four PCSOs, they operate from their base at Elm Tree Police Station, off City Road.

And that’s the way Tom - and, undoubtedly, Chief Constable Stephen Watson, who introduced the neighbourhood model two years ago - like it: officers out and about on the estate, speaking to residents about their issues and identifying common themes.

PCSOs Michelle Phillips and Jon Reid, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley

Tom added: “With our team, there aren’t very many of us but it’s the best team I have worked on in regards to togetherness. It’s a small team but we all help each other and it’s like a family.”

As we drive around the estate in the patrol car, Tom spots a dumped fridge freezer at the side of the road and makes a mental note to report it to the council.

He also points out a gap between a wall and bushes where he says off-road motorbikes have been getting through to access a patch of open land.

“It’s the little things like that make a difference,” he said.

Temporary Sgt Tom Hollands, with councillors Pat Midgley and Terry Fox. Picture: Marie Caley

“They’re the kind of things you spot by being out and about and speaking to people. We’ve already installed fencing and gates in other places to stop them from getting onto the land.”

We take a tour of the Angleton Estate, which lies between Prince of Wales Road and Castlebeck Avenue, and Tom says is the subject of a police orientated policing plan (POP).

Sitting in the middle is the Angleton Community Forum, which provides activities for around 40 to 50 excluded schoolchildren.

Tom said: “When we set up we got some research done on the area and one of the areas that was identified was the Angleton Estate.

“It had a high crime rate and residents lacked a bit of confidence in the police because they didn’t have neighbourhood policing.”

He said officers were ‘constantly’ speaking to people living in the area in order to assess priorities.

“Three issues that come up as the most pressing are off-road bike, drugs and litter. I was a bit surprised by litter but that offers an example of how we can work with partners and speak to each other to sort residents' problems.”

And, if our brief tour of the estate was anything to go by, it seems the force’s return to ‘old school policing’ has at the very least reduced the impact these three issues are having on people living in the area.

During our tour we also pay a visit to the Lidl Castlebeck store, where PCSOs Jon Reid and Michelle Phillips are busy chatting to a resident about his concerns over a lack of road signs at the Catcliffe Sheffield Parkway junction.

The duo were holding a pop-up police station, which the team hold around three or four times a week.

Jon said: “People will talk to use about anything. They might stop and talk to us for advice if there have been burglaries in their area or if there have been a lot of off-road bikes in the area – it’s the whole spectrum of stuff.”

And Michelle said it wasn’t just a chance for residents to raise concerns.

“We also get information about drug dealing as well. People will give us names and addresses and because we’re out all the time we know who they mean.”

There is evidence to back up Tom’s claims about the estate turning around – reports of antisocial behaviour have reduced by 42 per cent over the last two years.

And there were 100 fewer offences recorded in the area between July 2017 – 163 – and May 2019 – 63.

Manor Castle Coun Terry Fox said: “When we went to the neighbourhood model we had a walkabout with Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts and then we set up the Manor Action Group, which meets regularly to discuss issues.

“Nobody was really talking to each other before then but now everyone is working together for the good of the area.”

His colleague Coun Pat Midgley also praised the police’s work in the area.

She said: “We can’t thank the police enough because they really do have very few resources but have done a fantastic job in the area.”

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield, whose constituency includes the Manor successfully got an online article running the same ‘worst estate in Britain line’ removed as he said it used outdated quotes and caused ‘huge offence to a great community’.

He said: “We had a bit of a problem three or four years ago with antisocial behaviour and low-level issues which just made life unpleasant for a lot of people.

“That came out of my Big Conversation survey in 2017 but I have been in contact with the police and they have shifted their approach and get back out into the community and restore the trust and sorting out the problems that we had developed over two or three years.

“But certainly since then I have had far fewer complaints and I will be testing the water as part of this year’s Big Conversation.”