There are many anecdotal reports about the state of the streets in Normanton and particularly the fly-tipping of large household items in the area. Whilst the council have responsibility for managing this within the community little sustained progress seems to have been made.
To try and address this, and provide direct feedback to the council, a volunteer group called Normanton Empowerment Team was formed some years ago to take action. On a fortnightly basis they walk a route from Almond Street collecting rubbish, making note of any major issues that the Council should be alerted to, and if appropriate, speaking to any offenders. I took the opportunity to contact them, and join them on their walk on May 13th 2014 to see for myself what they found and to understand, first hand, the issues that they experienced in the area.
Although I had seen many pictures of the rubbish that they had found previously, including the extremely foul smelling, and heavily decayed entrails of a number of chickens in a suitcase, on this occasion the streets were relatively clean. The Team consists of residents, and local people who have a long history with Normanton, and from their perspective they had never witnessed the streets this clean. None of them saw this as a positive indication – they were very clear that this was down to the fact that elections are due to take place on May 22nd, as well as the impact of some of their pictures having been published in the Derby Telegraph. A few weeks ago, just before Channel 5 arrived to film them, the problem areas had been given special attention – however even this was frustrated as within a few hours much of the rubbish was back out on the streets.
In order to see the contrast for myself I will return in a few weeks and see any changes.
The most insightful aspect of the walk was the conversations with a few people from the neighborhood, and the members of the Team.
One of the ladies who had lived in Normanton for 30 years felt compelled to move out of her house due to the overall deterioration in the area. This was not just due to the continual battle against rubbish being dumped in the streets, and in the roads, but also the general behavior and demeanour of the neighborhood. I was curious as to how it could get to such a pitch that it would drive someone to move house. She struck me as being someone who was a strong character and not easily unnerved. I sensed that the neighborhood which she had enjoyed up until a few years ago was one that she felt associated with, where there was mutual respect amongst the locals and one where she didn’t feel intimidated. Each of the incidences that she experienced, in themselves, were not a major problem, it was their cumulative effect and their unrelenting nature which became all-consuming.
I also spoke briefly to a young Pakistani couple who were recounting a story of how local youngsters were taking their rubbish from their bin area and dumping it in another street. They had many experiences of people climbing into their garden and stealing washing off the line. The woman in the house was saying that she now uses the launderette to dry her washing. Before they let their 4 small children out into the garden they have to check round due to the number of times that they have found needles there. The man’s view was that some of the problem should be addressed to the landlords. Renting out properties to maximize their income seemed to be the common strategy. This often results in there being many occupants in the house – in some cases 20 +. Whilst this provides a healthy income for the landlord, and a place to live for many desperate people, it is totally inconsiderate of the existing residents. In any circumstance, a house with more than a handful of people will produce more rubbish, than the regular refuse collection rota will manage, as well as produce some level of unruly behavior and disquiet for the neighbours.
The general view was that the problems were caused by East Europeans. I asked whether they could be more specific. They understood them to be Roma – in some cases this was because the people identified themselves as such. I am very wary of generalizing but I felt that in these cases this was based on actual knowledge of the individuals background. This should not be used to vilify anyone but to consider how problems can be solved.
Some problems will result from understandable ignorance from new arrivals on how to deal with issues – e.g. what to do if you have a sofa that you no longer need? Some will be to do with a lack of awareness of what are acceptable standards in this country, some to do with education, access to the internet, ability to speak English, and some to do with a history of lack of respect for others in their home country – and no doubt many more.
The litter and fly-tipping seems to be a symptom of many other issues. The Team have asked the Council for sight of the local strategy for addressing the refuse issue – nothing has been forthcoming. There are many agencies trying to improve their part of the problem but without a cohesive strategy pulling together all strands it will be a long and arduous road for the people who live in Normanton.