Homes for the future completed
FOR a generation lumbering urban sixties tower blocks and a landscape of social deprivation became synonymous with Barton Hill, but now work has been completed on a multi-million-pound, 10-year regeneration, designed to give the district a brighter future.
Yesterday distinguished guests were given a tour of the new Sovereign Housing development, and were treated to performances by local schools and community groups, including a community dance performance.
Among those being shown the advances made in the area were Lord Matthew Taylor, chairman of the National Housing Federation, Dominic Murphy, chairman of the Easton & Lawrence Hill Neighbourhood Management organisation, and Lisa Denison, community investment director for Sovereign.
After the destruction of the Blitz and the over-zealous postwar policy of "slum clearance", the high-rise tower blocks became a grim symbol of this patch of the city.
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But there were cheers yesterday as construction was formally completed on the final phase of an ambitious £25-million regeneration scheme.
The five-year "masterplan" for Barton Hill has included building 131 new homes under the New Deal for Communities (NDC) Government initiative, with contractors Leadbitter working closely with the area's most prominent landlords, Bristol City Council and Sovereign Housing Association, to "rebuild" the community from the ground up.
The community has also seen a new school (Barton Hill Primary), a healthy living centre (The Wellspring Centre), and a new public park (the Barton Hill Urban Park) developed with input from the community.
Terry Black, Sovereign Housing's neighbourhood co-ordinator for the area, has the job of building a healthy community – and that takes much more than fresh bricks and mortar.
"At its lowest point, in the 1990s, Barton Hill was a place that had a real stigma attached to it," he said. "Nobody wanted to say they lived in Barton Hill then. It was seen as a rough area, with soaring crime and more than its share of antisocial behaviour. But all that is in the past."
The Government awarded the initial grant in 1999, building work got underway in 2002, and Sovereign completed its first phase of new houses in 2006, on the site of two low-level tower tenement blocks.
"They were particularly dreadful blocks, rife with crime and antisocial behaviour – a den of drug-dealing, prostitution, and criminal gangs," Mr Black said. "Understandably, when we started consultation here, it quickly became clear that the residents wanted them razed to the ground. The difference it has made is remarkable."
Also included in the regeneration is a new row of shops, a "community hub", and a series of urban art projects.
"The whole project has focused on physical regeneration which encourages community cohesion and also helps to deliver economic improvement throughout the regeneration area," Mr Black said.
"We have designed-out blind corners and alleys, and that, together with a new team of police community support officers, has had a dramatic effect on the fear of crime levels in the area.
"We're trying to get a good, balanced community – young families and elderly people living side by side happily. It really has been about rebuilding an entire community.
"We also have a mix of social housing and shared ownership housing for those working, but on a low salary. It's important to have that mix of different social housing levels – it raises the aspirations of the whole community."