Area of Roffey set for regeneration project

JPCT 100414 S14160111x Police initiative in Roffey. Think Family.  -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-141004-165540001
JPCT 100414 S14160111x Police initiative in Roffey. Think Family. -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-141004-165540001

Drug-related crime has tainted the reputation of part of Roffey for many years, but now the once notorious area has been targeted for regeneration.

As part of the Government initiative named ‘Think Family’ by West Sussex County Council, a number of local groups led by Horsham police spent the day of Thursday April 10 in South Holmes Road.

Over the course of the day, the agencies surveyed nearly 500 homes on the South Holmes estate, quizzing residents about crime and anti-social behaviour, the environment and the community.

The survey is a critical part of the Think Family project, and the answers given and concerns raised will help form targeted outcomes from the project.

Since January 2013 there has been a police crackdown in the Roffey area, including warrants issued and the closure of a crack den.

A number of residents, however, stressed how positive they feel about the area.

Bob Chase, 65, explained that when he was growing up, he and his friends compared Roffey to Beirut, the war-torn capital of Lebanon.

However, Bob has been living in South Holmes Road for the past eight years, and said he has no complaints about the area.

He said: “When I was a young teenager, Roffey was a fairly new area and South Holmes in particular went up so fast, so they had a lot of teething problems.

“We used to call it Beirut!

“Now I live in Beirut and it is wonderful. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.”

Another resident of the estate, Anne Walker, 69, has lived there for 18 years.

Anne believes that certain negative perceptions of the area are outdated.

She said: “In the past there have been problems. People say to me ‘do you live near the drug dealers?’

“It does frighten you, but I don’t know of any.

“I don’t know what other people think in the road because I think there have been problems, but in my block it has been pretty good.”

Penny Lucas-Power, 46, added that the presence of the police and neighbourhood teams will make an impact.

She said: “I think it is the general feeling of them being there - I know I can just make a phone call if needed.”

South Holmes Road has been chosen as one of the first places in West Sussex to be targeted by the Think Family initiative to support vulnerable families in turning their lives around.

Horsham police have been co-ordinating the project, but are one of a large number of local agencies to help with the proposed regeneration.

Chris O’Leary, sergeant for Horsham’s Neighbourhood Policing Team, said the teams knocking on doors around the estate had been met by a ‘positive response’.

He said: “In terms of today’s work, overwhelmingly it has been a positive response.

“For this area, a lot of people have lived here for many years and a lot of feedback is they have seen a lot of improvement, particularly in the last year or two.”

Sergeant O’Leary added that a key part of the project is interacting with residents to discover what the main issues are, and how police can work with locals to address these.

He said: “We have certainly had some really quite good ideas given to us already.

“For instance, we had one resident come to speak to us and he said it costs him £5 to get to the job centre, and being unemployed he can’t afford that.

“We need something here for unemployed people, something local.”

Valerie Pugh and Diane Morrison, the Neighbourhood Watch area co-ordinators for Roffey North and Roffey South respectively, also hope to play a vital role in the transformation of South Holmes estate.

The pair are responsible for almost 200 roads in northern Horsham between them.

Valerie said: “There is no Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator in South Holmes that we know of and we feel it is a way forward for people to get to know their neighbours.

“A lot of people might live next door to each other and don’t know their neighbours.

“We try to be the eyes and ears of the police in terms of trying to fight crime with the help of residents.”

Diane added: “There has been no negativity at all, we have even had two or three people want to become co-ordinators and I’ve been able to tell them all about that - I have been doing it for 27 years.

“To hear somebody say they are lonely and isolated was quite disturbing.

“It is not the perception of curtain twitchers, because we are not that.”

Kath Jones, the Methodist minister at St Andrews Methodist Church in Roffey, is also playing an active role in Think Family.

The church has raised a whopping £450,000 in just over a year to go towards redevelopments, and Kath hopes it can be used as a community asset in the coming years.

A new community cafe, social space and a revamped kitchen are included in the plans.

She said: “I have spoken to people today who have said a job seekers’ club is something they need. We met a lady who wants to get back into work, but she feels she lacks the social skills and confidence.

“We like to think the council are beginning to think about how to redevelop Roffey - it is tired and needs a major improvement, I think.

“We are interested in making Roffey a nicer place for people to live. If we are coming out of recession, I want to argue Roffey needs to be first on the district council’s agenda.”

Reducing truancy is another target of the project, and Helen Sare, community youth worker for Horsham Matters, hopes to address this.

She said: “We were made aware of it a while back because part of what we do is looking at truancy in schools. There are a lot of young families in Roffey.

“It is fun to be involved in. There are a lot of people in the area who are aware of stuff we all do and the support Horsham Matters offers.”