Fairfield residents call for Ark Housing to be shut down

Fairfield petittion. Local resident Bev Calladine hands a petittion to MP Ruth George.
Fairfield petittion. Local resident Bev Calladine hands a petittion to MP Ruth George.

Worried Buxton residents are calling for properties which are a magnet for anti-social behaviour to be closed.

They say their lives are being made a misery by some tenants who live in homes owned by Ark Housing Trust on Alma Street in Fairfield.

Now a petition signed by 600 people has been handed in to High Peak MP Ruth George asking for properties where the problems are occurring to be shut.

The petition was organised by Bev Calladine, of Queen’s Road, who said ‘something needs to be changed’.

She said: “We have young children who can’t play in their gardens, elderly people who are scared to walk down the street because of aggressive behaviour, it’s not right. Something needs to change.

“Everyone deserves a second chance but until those tenants are given proper help and support they can’t continue to stay open as they are ruining the community.”

Ark Housing Trust, which has properties in Buxton, Burbage and Harpur Hill, helps people with drug and alcohol issues - or those with mental health difficulties - to lead an independent life.

It also provides support and counselling for its clients.

But Ms Calladine said she felt the support offered to tenants was not good enough and insisted ‘people can’t carry on living like this’.

She said: “The properties are dirty, personal belongings are being stolen and it doesn’t seem right to put people with drug problems in with people with mental health issues.

“These people need specialist tailored support not all being shoved in together and forgotten as it is not making their recovery any better.

“Unless some drastic changes happen I don’t see how they can continue to stay open.”

Bev started the petition to highlight the community’s concerns to the area’s decision-makers.

She said: “The tipping point for me was a recent mass brawl in the street which has left my daughter scared, which isn’t right. Everyone is fed up.”

Labour MP Ms George said she had raised the issue with Ark Housing and was working ‘closely’ with the authorities to improve the situation.

“I had a long discussion with residents about their concerns and the need to support tenants with drug and mental health issues, which I agree with,” she said.

“I am working closely with Coun (Rachael) Quinn, the new Labour borough council, local police, Ark Housing and local residents to make sure that we are doing all we can to support people who are vulnerable, and their neighbours and the residents of Buxton who shouldn’t have to put up with antisocial behaviour.

“I met some of Ark Housing’s trustees a few weeks ago about better supporting their tenants and my caseworkers have spent time with some of their support workers and residents to see what more is required, both from Ark and from local services in Buxton.”

Coun Rachael Quinn said it was a ‘difficult issue for all parties’. She said: “Everyone has the right to live comfortably and safely but vulnerable people also need housing and it is extremely difficult for the council.

“It needs to be investigated fully and we are working hard to support everyone as best we can.”

Safer Neighbourhood Team Sergeant, Adam Harrison, said he was “keenly aware of the strength of feeling among residents in the Fairfield area regarding this issue” and that officers were working closely with the partners involved to ensure that the area is safe and secure.

“As a force we are committed to tackling criminality and antisocial behaviour wherever it takes place. However, we can only do this with the support of the community,” he added.

“While officers are undertaking pro-active work in the area we rely on residents reporting issues to ensure that we have a complete picture of what is happening in the area – only then can we put in place measures that will adequately deal with what is taking place.

“If you witness an incident then please ensure you report it immediately and support the officer that is investigating any offence through providing statements and any other information required.”

Jon Parsons, of Ark Housing Trust, said he was disappointed to hear negative comments directed at the trust and its tenants. He said: “I understand people have long memories with things that upset and frighten them and I know in the past things haven’t always been great with some of our tenants, but we are working towards a better future and we want to work with the community.” Ark Housing has met with police and environmental health officials to create a joined-up approach on what residents need to do in the event of antisocial behaviour. Mr Parsons said: “There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding Ark I have seen on the petition, but to clarify every one of our tenants has a connection to the area. The tenants are accountable and have to sign a licence - if incidents of antisocial behaviour are always reported to us we promise we will take action and act as we see fit which could mean them losing their licence.

“We also have no obligation to provide counselling but we offer a signposting service to help point people in the right direction to get help with their benefits of referrals for addiction help.”