Tough action to crackdown on problems of crime and nuisance behaviour in a former Doncaster pit town are in the pipeline, officials have revealed.
Doncaster Council has confirmed it is looking at bringing in new rules on housing to deal with issues on the Royal Estate in Edlington which have already been used in Hexthorpe to deal with issues there. They put responsibility on landlords to make sure tenants are not troublemakers.
And police are pledging to put more officers into the area to tackle the problems at their roots.
The planned action is revealed as the mayor of Edlington Town Council, Frank Arrowsmith, is raising concerns over the support the town is seeing from official agencies.
Claire Scott, head of service communities at Doncaster Council, said the authority was now looking to introduce a selective licencing scheme to regulate landlords on the estate, a measure which was already running in Hexthorpe.
Edlington would be the second part of Doncaster to have the scheme.
She said:“We are committed to making Edlington a safer, cleaner community and although there is still much to do, the council, along with the police, has made some really positive progress. We have more council and police officers patrolling the Royal Estate and we have been working closely with the community groups, residents and the town council to keep them informed of our work.
“We will be holding wider community meetings so the council, police, businesses and key community groups can get together to raise concerns and tackle important issues. Plans for selective licensing are moving forward, we’ve consulted with residents and the decision will be going to cabinet in the coming weeks.”
“Antisocial behaviour and incidents of criminal damage and burglary have also reduced significantly in the past few months. We recognise there is still much work to do but Edlington remains a key priority for us.”
If a selective licencing scheme is approved, landlords in the designated area would need to apply for a licence to continue to let a property in the designated area.
The conditions of the licence would include:
n The need for landlords or their managing agents to pass a fit and proper persons test
n The need to obtain tenant references
n Confirming tenancy agreements are in place and provided to tenants
n The effective management of anti-social behaviour
n Ensure the property is not overcrowded
n Maintenance of the external appearance of the property, including gardens and rear boundary walls
n Adequate security of the property when occupied and empty.
South Yorkshire Police have already set up a Doncaster West neighbourhood policing team, introducing it early to deal with issues in Mexborough and Edlngton, and are now looking to bring in more officers.
Supt Neil Thomas said: "That is already in place, but we are looking at increasing the numbers in the next few months.
"We will be putting more officers in and that is a cast iron guarantee. But it won't be overnight."
He said proposals for the numbers of officers to be allocated with drawn up and waiting for final approval from the top level.
A public meeting in March heard people living on the Royal Estate claim menacing young gangs are running amok on off-road bikes taunting locals and threatening them with weapons.
Fed-up residents said an escalating crime spree had resulted in a spate of burglaries, smashed windows and arson attacks while drug dealing and threats of violence had become part of everyday life.
Edlington Town Council has voted to withdraw from the Multi-Agency Task group which was set up to support and problem solve the Royal Estate.
The council's mayor, Coun Frank Arrowsmith, says there are concerns over what he saw as lack of attendance at its meetings and its failure to make any tangible progress. He said the last meeting attracted just two officials from Doncaster Council.
He said there was a big difference between police and the town council over the way forward.
He said: "We want a complete revamp with a focus group led by a senior member of council staff, someone at director level. We feel there's no point in attending any more multiagency group meetings because they're losing credibility.
"Doncaster Council seems to think the root cause of the problem is criminality and antisocial behaviour, but they need to tackle to real root cause which is multi-occupancy housing, acute poverty and lack of investment."
He said he wanted to see a radical re-think with more investment in the town, and some sort of police base in the town. He said the town council would be happy to provide a room.
He also added that the site of a previous part of Edlington which had been associated with anti-social behavior, was still derelict, Thomson Avenue and Dixon Road, are still empty nearly 15 years after the properties where knocked down, despite plans for new housing on the land having been drawn up.
Meanwhile, Edlington Town Council is starting to hold engagement sessions on the Royal estate, so that people living there can raise issues and give feedback themselves anonymously.
This month they held the first one, with a gazebo put up for people to visit, and councillors knocking on doors get get views.
Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Peter Billings attended the session.
Police are hoping to introduce new meetings in Edlington to encourage residents to report issues of concern.
Acting Insp Jones said at the request of the community and with the support of DMBC he hoped to reintroduce Partners and Communities Together, or PACT, meetings every six weeks to encourage partnership working and identify key issues.
He said: “I’d always encourage anyone who has any concerns about where they live to contact us via phone or please do come and speak to us when you see us out and about in Edlington,” he said.
He defended the police's work to crackdown on issues in Edlington
He said: “We have attended every town council meeting and multi-agency group that we can, where we have fed back any action taken or progress made to residents.
“We highly value these meetings and it’s absolutely unfair to suggest that we have ‘lost interest’ or do not support the group or the town council.
“We are happy to speak to the town council about the room they are offering and we will continue to attend meetings as one of the joint partners .
“Residents are aware that there are no plans for the police station to fully re-open and that it is more likely that we may in the future have a joint facility working alongside other emergency services.
“I appreciate the frustration at how quickly we can make changes happen. Unfortunately there are constraints around budgets that are often out of our hands.”
He added: “A number of resources have been allocated to Edlington, including Operation Duxford with a number of positive results and we will continue to do this.
“Since the launch of the group, reports of anti-social behaviour have gone down by almost 50 per cent, criminal damage offences are down by around two thirds and burglaries were down by over half between March and July but this will need continued joint efforts by all partners.
“A closure order has also been put in place at a premise that caused significant and persistent disorder in the community and work is ongoing with DMBC to tackle others."
You can report an incident anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.