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Harefield Community Centre Disgrace #SO18Hub #Southampton #Harefield

As some of you will remember I have mentioned the subject of the state of repair of the community centre for the council estate on which I live before, unfortunately, this it has seriously worsened in recent weeks. I have made a couple of forays to take picture to document the dereliction (of all kinds), a week or so ago I turned up to find two kids (early teens at most), on-site within the restricted area and yesterday arrived to find the gates were no longer closed and chained and that the site was, therefore, fully accessible from the road. Having gone there to take some more pictures I committed a small act of trespass (considering it my duty as a good citizen to do so), in order to document the vandalism and damage for the community, I did not enter the premises most especially because there may be hazardous materials on site made more hazardous by any acts of vandalism which may have occurred within.

Some weeks ago:


The centre has been closed since before I moved on to the estate over twelve years ago, there is no tenant’s association. Apparently the owners are a firm of developers who purchased the site (I will try and find out the details of this from the unitary authority), from Southampton Unitary Authority well over a decade ago, use of the site is restricted, however, and the owners are compelled to fulfil certain requirements (re: community use etc.), if they intend to re-develop or renovate the centre.
Truanting is now endemic on the estate (getting much worse over the past year), and many residents are afraid to go to certain areas or walk the streets at certain times because of the amount of intimidation perpetrated by the estate’s feral teens. Burnt out mopeds and small motorcycles litter the woods (having been stolen and then destroyed), and the bus company has threatened to stop our only service to the city because of vandalism to the bus stops and stone throwing attacks on the buses themselves by groups of local youths.

As I reported here at the time they did this to my “Popadome” poly-tunnel/greenhouse two years ago:


The question of returning the former community centre to community use was aired at our local “Post Code Hub” (which is situated almost exactly half-way between my flat and the centre itself), before the Covid pandemic hit but nothing has been done since (Covid being only a partial excuse for this). Meanwhile the centre continues to fall into disrepair becoming more and more expensive to renovate as each day passes. Every window has been broken but some have been boarded up and the boards themselves splintered and smashed, and, as you can see, in some cases the doors have been completely removed. There is no question that vandals have gained access to the inside of the building as have the elements! I, therefore, call upon the local community, our councillors and the unitary authority to get of their a**es and do something about this dreadful situation immediately.
Having been a representative for the (former), city farm on the (former), “Environment Forum” I know full well that projects which include a measure of horticulture, mental health promotion, community food provision and that offer opportunities for networking with other community groups, institutions and NGOs are a tremendous asset to any community and as such offer alternatives to delinquency for local kids and provide havens and extra resources for hard-pressed parents.

Quote; "The Farm was formed in 1992 and was the amalgamation of Southampton City Farm and Millbrook School Rural Science Unit which became Down to Earth Farm. It has been a City farm since 1976, with a horticultural route for the site dating back to 1936. In 2008, Oasis Community Learning (part of Oasis Academy Lord’s Hill), took over the running of the farm from Southampton City council. In 2020, the farm changed its name back to Southampton City Farm .

The farm now tends to Approx. 1.2 hectares of workable land alongside the community building and other buildings which facilitate the programs we run throughout the week. The land is mostly devoted to grazing areas for the animals, with a horticultural area at the western end of the site, where we grow a diverse crop to feed the animals and to provide ingredients for the kitchen.": https://www.southamptoncityfarm.com/a-brief-history.html

The school farm and city farm amalgamated during my period of involvement (other than a forum representative I twice held the volunteer post of “growing area supervisor”, once for the city farm and once for the amalgamated project). The project includes sustainable energy systems, organic agriculture and educational resources, quote; "We run an award-winning educational programme at the farm for children of all ages. The programme is easily accessible, and can be altered for any age or curriculum level.

We believe in offering an exciting and enjoyable learning experience, and our structured tours and lessons engage children with the animals, plants, and natural environment. Our passionate staff are experienced, knowledgeable and have huge enthusiasm towards education, and will deliver the best learning experience on a unique city farm setting.

We have found that the farm often brings out a side to young people rarely seen in the class room, offering opportunities for team work, leadership, problem solving, social development and self awareness.

Although we have been educating pupils at the farm for many years, we ensure that each educational tour is unique, perfectly tailored to your class, and easily adapted to support the National Curriculum for Nursery, Reception, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 classes."

City Farm

The project’s achievements speak for themselves. I, therefore, ask myself how it is that on the west of the city a community project is thriving and represents one of the jewels in Southampton’s civic crown but in the east of the city the community infrastructure is being allowed to fall to wrack and ruin.


I hate to say it but the answer is fairly obvious: when it’s just about falling down the owner will get some proxies to send ‘dear me’ letters to be published in the local press. They’ll print any old crap. A press release from a made-up historical society, which they’ll copy and paste wholesale into a ‘what is to be done?’ article. Get auntie Edna to respond with a letter and someone else to reply to ‘her’. Then a few letters saying ‘well… redevelop the site then’ and let it simmer.

Presto! - due to popular demand the council will allow a developer to build some flats.

This exact thing happens time and time again. The building used as pavilion/changing rooms, etc for the local park, so unfortunately, fell into disrepair, etc, etc. It takes a few years, and some graffiti sprayed on the walls soon encourages more of the same, bricks thru windows, oh how awful. Keep applying pressure.

Happily the building is now subdivided into tidy little flats.

Across the road, there’s a former public house that went the same way. On the same piece of land was an old coach house, used as a garage, then allowed to fall to bits. Once every year or two planning permission was applied for, blocked by the local preservation society… but ultimately it became no 50a (or thereabouts) and very nice too.

For subtlety, lack thereof, take a bow the Duchy Of Cornwall. One week there’s a front-page story saying the local plan dictates we need 3000 new homes… but where will we put them??? The very next week the Duchy of Cornwall responds saying, wait a minute, we’ve got a bit of land going begging. Are you interested?? Roll forward about three years it’s houses all over the place and a lovely new Aldi supermarket.

The only way to win is to use similarly dirty tactics. Get Edna Welthorpe on board. ‘She’ can write to the papers, and harass her parish councillor, etc. You can join in, saying how much you agree. Gather support, be a pest. Sod ethics: become a better liar than the liars-that-be.

Not joking btw.


Copy of today’s email to the council (Nb. yeah I know what happens “social/communal amenities” are vandalised -often “professionally”-, in order to secure change of use, its happened in this area before -another story I might blog when I’m less pressed-), quote:

"All concerned will be pleased to know that it is evident that works have been carried out to ameliorate the vandalism to Harefield Community Centre and prevent access to the site via the car park, however, this will be to no purpose if the perimeter fence along Yeovil Chase is not repaired (clearly where access has been gained by local youngsters), and security improved generally. It is also necessary that the entire perimeter be checked for other sites of damage to the fence (I have not done this). Repair of the perimeter fence should now be regarded as a high priority in order to prevent damage to the recently undertaken re-mediation work.

It seems clear to me that the owners of the site have failed in their due diligence with regard to the upkeep of the site and I hope that councillors will raise this matter in council with an eye to possible formal censure of the owners and the levying of any appropriate fines upon them. The community is given to understand that it is was a condition of purchase that the site be used in order to benefit the community and we ask how it was that the site and its building were allowed to fall into such a poor condition. If Southampton Unitary Authority discuss this matter (as they should), and take any action with regard to the site’s ownership and further use I ask that they furnish both myself and the SO18 Big Local community hub with the details of these discussions and any action taken as a result. Thank you.

regards Gerard Hales"

I took more pictures yesterday (and will blog them):

Here are the breaches in the perimeter fence (Yeovil Chase):

Currently Southampton Unitary Authority are paying for me to be transported several miles (crossing the Itchen River), to and from “warm space” provision at the Spectrum offices at Rose Rd. Portswood, once a week, whereas the Harefield Community Centre is more or less on my doorstep. Warm space provision is, of-course, just one of the services that such a resource can offer to the community. In what twisted world is it “economic” to allow this lack of provision to continue?
I now support “Sense”: https://www.sense.org.uk/ and wear their lapel pin, which they ask you have a picture taken of yourself wearing, so I arranged that some photos of myself wearing the pin be taken with some of the Spectrum warm space crew last Monday:

Becky (left), and Mike (centre), are both highly intelligent people and it was a true pleasure to make their acquaintance. Becky has studied psychology at doctorate level.

I hosted a Daily Echo photo-journo here on Thursday and took him to the site, he interviewed me and I pointed him in the direction of the SO18BigLocal group and the UNITE Housing campaign. Hopefully he will dig up more information from the council concerning the current owners of the site and their obligations re: usage.
As often happens in such circumstances I was chary about allowing them to publish a photo of me and of releasing any personal details for, as a state benefit claimant, I have to be wary about who (and/or what), knows my business as one’s activities are almost always taken out of context and such “decontextualising” can result in loss of benefits and/or criminal charges.


G, this post is a model of your prose at its most lucid and powerful. Despite all my ungracious criticisms, I just love this: excellent stuff. Good on yer bro! Respect! And keep sluggin’! :slight_smile:


Agreed. I do take your point about the needless trek to Portswood but it’s a lovely place: view up to the ranges, the war memorial up above, and the Spinnaker just a mile or so away. I know lots of people regard it as an eyesore but I love it. Haven’t spent long periods on that glass floor though.

Photos illustrate what I’m talking about as it won’t be clear to non-Portsmuthians or folks from nearby. The last pic is from Portswood (Castle) area on a murky day, 2 from the harbour, first one is the glass floor at the top of the tower (on a sunnier day as is obvious).

Despite the haze you can see the Victory and a couple of Navy frigates at the edge of the harbour.

I think I might know Mike though it has been many years. Raised as a Jehovah’s Witness.

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Portswood not Portsmouth K! A trip to Portsmouth would cost the unitary authority quite a little more than the £10 or so it costs for me to cross the Itchen via the Cobden Bridge (although that is only one way).


I have confused Portswood with Portchester, oops

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"Harefield Community Centre left in state of neglect for over a decade

The gates around Harefield Community Centre

An old Southampton community centre has become a hotspot for vandalism after being neglected for over a decade.

Harefield Community Centre, on Yeovil Chase, has been left in a “derelict state” for over ten years.

But in recent months, resident and community advocate, Gerard Hales, 56, has noticed an increase in vandalism at the plot of land.

Gerard Hales, 56, resident and community advocate


Speaking to the Daily Echo, he said: “The site has been left in a more or less abandoned and derelict state since well before I moved in, and I moved in 12 years ago.

“Over the last five years or so, the condition has become noticeably worse and the place is becoming derelict.

Harefield Community Centre left in a derelict state


“But in recent months, it’s been quite clear that there’s been repeated vandalism on the site and that local children and teenagers have been getting access.”

READ MORE: New community hub to support people’s wellbeing is officially open

Smashed glass and litter is visible around the property.

He added: “All the glass has either been smashed or has been boarded over. It’s unacceptable.”

Harefield Community Centre left in a derelict state

harefield 3.jpg.article3

He thinks the space could be used for the benefit of the community such as a warm bank or for clubs.

West Itchen Community Trust took ownership of the building in February 2020 from Southampton City Council.

The trust, which runs other community hubs in Northam and St Mary’s, has been forced to halt investment in the site due to “financial pressures caused by the pandemic”.

Chief Executive Rick Harwood said: “When we took on the centre in February 2020, it had been empty and in a state of dilapidation for possibly five years or more when it was owned by the council.

“Unfortunately, the impact of COVID decimated our business, being a charity and a social enterprise with a number of commercial buildings, and our income was decimated.

“Our team ended up, over the last year or two going down from seven full-time equivalents to almost just myself, trying to run things and get us through it.

“So, it has proved very difficult for us to move forward.”

Residents still hope that the centre can be put to good use." https://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/23353437.harefield-community-centre-left-state-neglect-decade/


Rhis, the likes of you and I can churn out words at the level of the Gettysburg Address. It’s easy to forget that most people can’t do this, which might perhaps say something about the present day education system (?).

It’s also easy to forget that many people thesedays suffer from things like dyslexia (I’m not saying that GK suffers from this). Over the years I’ve known many people with dyslexia. They are not stupid people; they just find it difficult to express themselves.

Immediately I sound patronising here. I don’t mean to be so.

A cousin of mine had a son who was labelled as ‘autistic’. When he was in his late teens I would often sit down and talk to him after dinner. Wow, and I thought I was clever!

But the thing is with the ‘autistic’ etc, is that they have trouble relating at a human level.

There’s a whole ball of wool there.


Apologies if I gently chide you here Rob. Autistic people “have trouble relating at a human level” is kind of true but it’s common among us Non-NT** types to use ‘masking’ to conduct perfectly average (I won’t say ‘normal’) social interactions. It’s more common among females but that is quite possibly because the typical female gender role involves more interacting socially and using soft skills, while males chop down trees and garotte any animals that don’t run away quickly enough. So autistic women get more opportunities to practice.

Social roles, and relating generally to other members of society, is ALL play-acting though. Taking turns in conversation, holding one’s facial muscles in certain approved configurations, knowing not to mention certain things, etc. See Erving Goffman The presentation of self in everyday life, for example.

This becomes second nature to many people through repetition and practice in relations with parents and kin, in school, etc. The most socially skilled are unconsciously competent: they do it effortlessly. Walking is similar, for those with the bodily capacity to do so.

I’ll leave the ball of wool there for Herricka to claw at maybe.

** NT = neurotypical (thinking and making connections in the way that is the norm)


Endorsing what you - both - say, Rob and Karen, I realised late in life (mainly because of having neighbour/friends who have a son who was diagnosed as Aspi) that that fits my non-NT personality too. Karen describes with great exactness what we have to learn to do - which comes relatively effortlessly to NT people, by natural instinct in good working order.

That late realisation for me suddenly explained why, all my life since earliest childhood, the world has seemed a frightening place, with human interactions being the most difficult thing of all to face. (Weird for a professional actor, heh? :slight_smile: )

I never had any difficulty relating to other animals, though, with dogs, as I’m sure you’ve picked up, being my all time darlings. And yet, this late in life, I’ve suddenly conceived a doting great-grandfatherly love for my grand-daughter’s little tot Goldilocks (actually Agatha). At long last I can actually like children… Knock me down with a feather! :slight_smile:

Here’s hoping that next time round on the Wheel of Rebirth, this soul can cop a more socially-adept personality…! :smile:


Have two autistic folks here at our humble abode. One is female. She shreads your theory, but correlation etc. She has PDA. Pathological Demand Avoidance. And gets aggressive very easily, but only with people she is comfortable with (easily defused though)…PDA is interesting. Imagine being a youth, sat on your bed. You have the urge for ice cream.but your conscious won’t let you. It’s a funny game, mostly of reverse psychology.

And what exactly is neurotypical? There’s 7 bullet point to meet for a diagnosis and everyone presents at least 2. Then there’s the pot users. It literally rewires your mind. Would be inclined to believe other substances can do the same.

Japanese fella says we have four faces (apologies for ignorance). I’ve successfully destroyed the first, and have chipped away at the second. The wife says I have no filter, I’d view it as what you see is what you get. People know I’ll always be frank. No one will ever see the fourth face though…funny that

Show me your cat please!

KarenEliot, feel free to chide me. Also feel free to spit on the floor and call the cat a bastard. Maybe start a separate thread about all this? Dyslexia, autism and all the rest does seem to effect an awful lot of people one way or the other, whether it’s something you suffer from personally or people close to you who suffer from it.

I’m never afraid to admit that I’ve suffered from chronic anxiety attacks all my life. People who are aware of that often ask me: with that kind of condition how have you managed to carry out all the things you’ve done?

My standard riposte is that Admiral Nelson used to suffer from chronic sea sickness.

I’m not sure who had the bigger ego, me or Admiral Nelson.


Nb. I’m not autistic…but I can assure you that my “executive” is just as capable of the truly draconian!

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“Culture is the coinage of diplomacy”

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What are the seven points?

Oooh I’ve never liked spitting, and I’m quite certain the cat is not a bastard, so will instead adopt an equanimous mask :wink:

Nelson had sea sickness? Now that’s a good story I’d not heard before.

Anxiety attacks are horrible, about the only thing worse is the dread when one seems to be coming on, the two reinforce themselves. (Have heard similar about migraine, and of epilepsy, which sister 2 of 4 is affected by.) But very liveable, as you imply Rob. As is epilepsy and as is autism in many cases, if people aren’t arseholes about it.

The most common problem I come across is the ‘magic psychic’ thing, where people have an idea in their heads and refer to ‘it’ without explaining what ‘it’ is in the first place. And yet they accuse us of being spazzes!

I used to faint, as a child and into my early twenties, which I only realised a long time later was very very similar - at least for me. When I was still quite young this alarmed my mother (very phlegmatic and, sadly, rather cold, individual) to the extent that she/we consulted some or other specialist. Because this was not long after the family moved to Johannesburg it was put down to “altitude sickness”. (Jozi is about 1,750 m above sea level and you can feel it when you drive a car: the acceleration is very sluggish.) Very dry scratchy eyes were a symptom noticed by the same doc (probably air pollution-related) so I got a pat on the head and some eye drops and off I went.

My hindsight-is-a-fine-thing interpretation would be that moving to a whole other country, and parents splitting then divorcing very soon after, was plenty to panic about.

Still: stiff upper lip eh.


Exactly! The term neurodivergence helps to capture this a little better . . . but practically every key word used to discuss ‘the spectrum’ is contested in some way. Knowledge is expanding all the time as awareness increases, crucially because people are being included in the discussion and not just professionals.

Gerard queried the seven points so I won’t butt in except to agree that these (I assume this is the DSM-V definition) are very wide, yes.

Pot rewires your brain… I can believe it, and testify to it to some extent. Not touched it for a long time (but the usual disclaimer applies: drug(or dose)/set/setting). Someone in the extended family became very disturbed, and permanently, mainly as a result of cannabis psychosis. The whole area of neuroplasticity is absolutely fascinating.

I am always happy to share a cat photo but wondered if that was for Rob?

EDIT: image found in NAS forum fits quite well so have appended

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I’ve begun to play Scrabble again (Warm Space), not played for years…it’s a fascinating game (what a great idea and brilliant execution), but in our homogenous conformist (and thus isolating), so-called “society” who bothers with such things anymore? Truly great “brain training”…the brain is a muscle just like any other and must be exercised to keep it in tip-top shape.

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If I have understood you correctly you are referring to what Succito refers to as “the inner tyrant” - there’s a LOT of it about.