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Sunday, 24 February 2008

Hull City Council (estates).

My apologies to any and all regular and irregular readers of this blog for the time taken to get this latest post out. I was whisked into hospital a couple weeks ago as my spine refused to support my body which meant I could not stand up nor crawl about. In fact I could not move at all. It turned out that a rather large chunk of whatever they used to weld my lower spine together some 10 years ago had come loose and lodged itself between 2 discs higher up which in turn refused to bend or move as they should. Further the rather large chunk of whatever it is was pressing very hard against my spinal cord. All not very nice and for a short while very frightening. They operated and removed the chunk of whatever and now I am back to my previous functionality. Which while not perfect does at least give me the ability to sort of stand up. One day I may blog about my condition but for now just accept it at face value when I say I am disabled.

Anyways. On with the show.

During the 1970's and 1980's Hull City Council embarked on what was then a radical plan to drag a City that in previous years had relied on and profited from, and had made the City one of the wealthiest in the country, the fishing trade. A trade that for no fault of the council had been killed off by the Labour Government of that time.

After that trade had been given away to a foreign country the city fell into what could only be described as the doldrums. We as a city had lost our main income and had nothing of note to fall back on. So, the city as a whole fell into a state of misery. Then out of nowhere and unknown to many city dwellers the council hatched a plan to drag the city out of the doldrums and back to somewhere close to its former prosperous and relatively happy state.

The plan they had was a radical 25 year plan that would be staged in 5 year steps. This plan was to generate as much money as they could from private sources as well as the Government and the European council. They also embarked on some serious trawling of businesses to try and convince them to come to the city. They succeeded in their endeavours in so much as for almost 25 consecutive years many businesses came to the city and once again after 25 years in the doldrums the city was once again a prosperous place.

Okay, that was rather a simplistic view and write up of that period but the bit about a prosperous city is indeed true and correct.

So, during this period of ladder climbing what has the council done on, and for, the various estates that litter this city? The estates had too fallen into the doldrums and it showed. They where by and large places to avoid if you did not live on one and the residents, especially the old and fragile rarely ventured out after dark.

Having lived on various estates in my early 20's (1980's) and again now in my life I can see a clear picture of both eras. In between that estate living I entered the private market. First in the Avenues area of the city then later in the Sculcoates area. It has to be said that living in private areas was much more preferable to council estate living at that time. But it is the council estates I am discussing here.

In my early 20's I lived on North Hull estate. This estate was built in the years after World War II to house the displaced that had been bombed to rubble. I lived in a nice quiet area of the estate. There was trouble in various other parts of North Hull Estate but not where I chose to live. Visiting the pubs and clubs in the area and surrounding area at that time was an exercise best left to the drink=fighting folk but in some pubs on could have a good night out without fear of being smashed over the head with a bottle or beer glass or being accosted on ones way home. Then I moved to Orchard Park. I can remember this estate being built during 1964-66. My best mate of the time father worked on the construction side so we often visited him at work. The best way to describe this estate back then is, it was like the Wild West. Not a nice place to live at all. Then I moved east onto Bransholme Estate which was built if I remember correctly in the late 1960's and early 1970's. An estate where walking the streets at night could result in near death. Due in part to the sheer size of this estate some areas where excellent while others where utterly, depressingly bad. Thankfully I lived in the former. The last estate I lived on before embarking on my private housing venture was GypsyVille Estate. The best way to describe that estate at that time was damn right rundown and it showed. Both in the people and families that lived here and in the housing that littered that estate.

All in all my council estate living lasted some 5 or so years, from me being 19 to being 24. At 24 I got married first time around and bought a house in the Avenues area where I was born and brought up. I knew the area inside out and the houses where perfect for first time buyers thinking of starting a family. The contrast between council estate living and private house living was stark.

Fast forward to today, 2nd wife, new family of 3. Personal financial status and the stupid prices of private houses dictated we move out of the private sector and offer our lives to the council for a house on one of their estates. I was adamant I was not going to live on the east side of the city 3, 4 or 5 bedroom house or not. In the end we got offered a 4 bedroomed house on Orchard Park. The very place I had nightmares about some 25 years earlier. We went to have a look at the house and while the internals where rough (apparently the previous tenants had deliberately burnt the main water tank which resides in the loft. You can imagine the state of the place when the council came to check if it was livable or not some 5 months after the previous tenants had left the place) as all the council had done was patch it up, rewire the place and fit a new kitchen and bathroom suite. The walls in every room where plaster bare. Still, we requested a 3 bedroomed place and was offered a 4 so we took it. The area, which is some 150 yards from Cottingham, is nice and quiet. For the first time in their 9 and 10 year old lives we allowed our children to play outside. The neighbours are nice which is a plus. It is quite simply a nice area to live.

Over the course of the last 25 or so years the council, with the help of the police, to their credit have weeded out all the 'bad' people from all the various estates and put then in one or two distinct pockets. Where, presumably, they and the police, can keep an eye on them and know that when something goes missing where to look and who to point the finger at. This has left the rest of each estate a safe place to walk at night, a safe place from children to play and a safer place for our pensioners to live and walk. The council embarked on a plan some years ago to bring all their council houses into modern times. Central heatng, double glazing, refitting of bathrooms and kitchens. The streets, avenues, groves and courts that weave throughout the estates got a make over too. Flowerbeds where planted. Pavements where given a new coat. Fences surrounding each and every house was renewed, some with rout iron fencing, others with wooden fencing. The plan was ambitious, expensive and slow to get done but doing it they are. They have, to my knowledge, done 3 of the bigger estates (North Hull and Orchard Park count as one) and the estates they have done are all the better for having it done.

If the people and especially the children grow up seeing nice things around them they are less likely to want to break those things. Or so the argument goes. Of course there are bad apples in every batch but the vast majority are good people. It is hoped that the good will keep the bad in check. Only time will tell if the council is correct in that assumption.

So, do I see and feel a difference now from my early 20's when walking around the estates? Yes, I do. Realise that nowadays I am classed as a vulnerable member of our society whereas in my early 20's I could, and would, stand my ground against just about anyone so the fact I feel safer these days on our estates speaks, in my opinion, volumes for what the council, and the people who have grown up and are now living on these estates, have achieved in a generation.

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