Action promised over simmering tensions in Sheffield neighbourhood

Action has been promised to address simmering tensions in a troubled Sheffield neighbourhood, which residents had warned threatened to bubble over into major unrest.

Tuesday, 8th October 2019, 17:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th October 2019, 13:57 pm

Page Hall has long been plagued by divisions between the different communities living there – driven largely by concerns about overcrowded private rented homes, littering and other anti-social behaviour – but relations appear to have deteriorated alarmingly in recent times.

In October last year, police flooded the area amid reports of a near riot outside Fir Vale School, said to have been sparked by a fight in the school canteen, and just last month a video was shared online which appeared to show people running in panic from what was described as a mass brawl involving up to 100 people.

People have told how they are scared to let their children out due to large crowds gathering on the streets, blasting out loud music and acting in an intimidating manner.

Page Hall in Sheffield (pic: Dan Hobson)

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Fearful residents have demanded action, threatening to stage protests and block roads in the area should nothing be done, and Sheffield Council has now announced a raft of measures which it hopes will get to the root of the problems.

Those steps include writing to all landlords in the neighbourhood, offering to help them address problems like rubbish, rat infestations and antisocial behaviour by tenants at their properties, but warning they could face prosecution if they fail to seek support and the council identifies shortcomings.

Dedicated council officers have also been promised for the area – encompassing not just Page Hall, but stretching from Northern General Hospital and Firth Park to Grimesthorpe – to deal with housing enforcement, pest control and the provision of new activities and services such as English lessons and youth clubs to improve relations and get people off the streets.

A new council base for activities in the area will also be set up, residents have been assured, and the council will work with Yorkshire Water to get sewers and old toilets capped off.

Councillor Paul Wood, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community safety (pic: Marie Caley)

The action plan was agreed following a meeting organised last month by the Firth Park Neighbourhood Network and attended by representatives from police and the council, including Councillor Paul Wood, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community safety.

Coun Wood said: “The different communities in the area are getting very antagonistic towards each other, which is a dangerous situation, and we can see things boiling up again so it’s time to step in….

“It needs some intervention and all we can do as a council is attempt to do what we feel is right to try to get a result.

“To make this work we will need the cooperation of the local community. That’s going to be a very big part of the whole project, and if they come on board we could make a long-term difference.”

Mr Wood added that the council had previously ‘made a mistake’ by failing to put a plan in place to maintain standards after a four-year selective licensing scheme – under which landlords were required to apply for a licence from the council – came to an end in the area earlier this year.

He said it was important to ensure there was a long-term plan in place this time to ensure that mistake was not repeated.

Mr Wood said action was needed because anti-social behaviour was on the rise, overcrowding in some properties was ‘unacceptable’, littering was ‘worse than it’s been in years’ and school exclusion rates were among the highest in the city.

Nasar Raoof, vice chairman of the Firth Park Neighbourhood Network, said: “These problems have been brewing for years. It will take a lot of resources to address them but this is a start and we’re glad the council is listening to us.

“People here had been growing increasingly frustrated because nothing was being done. We warned the council there might come a time when we needed to protest, and because of the anger among people living here that could turn into a huge demonstration.”