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."
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.