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Grimethorpe & Other Blighted Areas / YOUR " High Street " : Modern Day Reality ... For Some ? Updates On The Wastelands - Carers UK Forum

Grimethorpe & Other Blighted Areas / YOUR " High Street " : Modern Day Reality ... For Some ? Updates On The Wastelands

Discuss news stories and political issues that affect carers.
A little on the political side but a CLASSIC ... former mining community with something to say :

http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/the ... -1-8522731

In essence , grass roots speaking sense that echoes across the country in areas almost forgotten by all and sundry.

Both men lament the loss of the local sporting facilities leaving little available for youngsters to do and see it as being tied into the community spirit they believe has been lost.

“In the days of the colliery, everybody knew everybody, you used to leave your doors open and now you can’t. We didn’t know there were drugs in the village when the pits were going, there were things for people to do,” says one.

As carers , we can share affinity with communities such as Grimethorpe , the very heart having been ripped out by economic circumstances with nothing done to replace the loss.

What must it be like to be a carer in Grimethorpe ?

Common for many ex miners to be found , confined to a wheelchair , with his miners' medals clearly on display ... an oxygen mark and bottle.

Remembrance Day ? Quite common for ex mining communities to gather together at the site of the last pit disaster at the former colliery to remember their fallen ....

Manton / Shireoaks / Cresswell / Langold ... all near to me honour those occasions.


All part of the bigger picture ... communities abandoned , carers simply ignored and taken for granted.

......... and no one even wants to listen !


Photo taken in 1999.


Photo from article , 2017.

Houses identical to 3 villages within 4 miles of me , 'ere in Worksop !

Hardly any life seen at anytime of day.

Perhaps a future Roadshow visit to somewhere similiar ?

After all , the Voice of Carers .... ALL carers ?

Your reading the words of one voice from forgotten lands now.

I only wish you could hear from a few more ... why should they bother , nobody's listening ?

Survey currently doing the rounds ... many completed by carers in similiar areas ?
Interesting Guardian article from March 2015 , a precurser to the first posting :

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/20 ... unced-back

Grimethorpe, the mining village that hit rock bottom – then bounced back

Thirty years after pit workers ended their one-year strike and returned to work, local people recall how their community has been transformed

In common with another thread ... Middlesbrough ... a community bouncing back , if that is the right term in this case , from an economic and social holocaust wraught on them purely because the main industry was devastated by economic factors allied with Government policy.

Grimethorpe is not the first , nor will it be the last , community recovering from a " War " ( No bullets or bombs , but just as effective ) ... one to keep an eye on rather than to simply surf away , and not be concerned as to future developments.

Suffice to say , readers in similiar areas will see the priority in keeping tabs on communities such as Grimethorpe ... and Redcar ( Middlesbrough thread ).

Outside agencies should be very wary as to how their reborn child adapts to the modern world.



Today's Guardian , this time Horden , Durham , and their problems :

https://www.theguardian.com/society/201 ... -co-durham

‘People are starving’: village life in Britain’s blighted coalfields.

The once-proud community of Horden in Co Durham now struggles with drugs and social isolation, but a new initiative is offering some hope

Similar history and pattern , but slightly more severe due to their isolation in respect of the geographical location.

So, when a new community centre opened last month in the middle of the 13 numbered terraced streets, no one quite knew what to expect. Within days, a melancholy truth emerged: living conditions in Horden – a former mining village in County Durham and one of the most deprived places in Britain – were even worse than had been thought.

Paula Snowdon, who runs the Hub House, a converted end-of-terrace community centre on Seventh Street, describes malnourished families begging for food. “Most had received benefit sanctions and were basically starving when they came to us,” she said. Others turned up wanting little more than a chat. “We had individuals who hadn’t spoken to another person for days, sometimes weeks. Solitude is a major issue.”

Some asked only to sit on the Hub’s sofa; private landlords lease homes without furniture in the numbered streets, forcing many tenants to live without the luxury of settees. Some arrived seeking refuge from the network of drug dealers that has infested the village: one resident on Eleventh Street counts six dealers among its 54 red-bricked properties. Yet what astonished Snowdon most was the prevalence of mental illness.

“The actual way of life around here causes problems. I would say that 85% have a mental health illness such as anxiety and depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Children are born into deprivation and high unemployment: people feel forgotten about.”

Similarly, the North-East Local Enterprise Partnership, created to boost regional economic growth, appears to have delivered scant benefit to the numbered streets; a third of the housing stock lies boarded up on Twelfth Street or has been converted into drug dens. Two years ago, a local housing association offered to sell 130 Horden homes to Durham council for £1 each. The council turned the offer down.


For any real diehard readers , the BEST survey report ever produced across the social spectrum bar none .... in PDF. format :

http://www4.shu.ac.uk/research/cresr/si ... fields.pdf

It lays bare the social holocaust created by Government action ... followed by years of non action !

As for the carers with their carees amonsgt their number ... want to swop places ?
A little more on Horden , lifted from an article on social housing / housing associations in today's Guardian :

Horden: Selling off the numbered streets netted £2.8m for housing association.

Streets of terrace houses in Horden were sold off by Accent Housing Association.



In Horden, a former mining village in County Durham, residents say they campaigned for years to get Accent housing association to maintain its oldest terrace houses – the “numbered streets”.

They claim the community was blighted after Accent withdrew a renovation programme on the properties and began to sell them off instead.

Pat Barnett, chairwoman of the Horden Colliery residents association, says: “Accent let their properties fall into a dreadful state of neglect. It became so bad that decent families moved out of the area, thus leaving more empty properties. In July 2015 [the housing association] had 144 empty properties and 74 tenanted properties, meanwhile Durham county council did nothing.

“The current problems within this area were not brought about by the residents but [by] Durham county council and Accent Housing. Both are guilty of neglect of their duties within the area. While collecting the rent and council tax from the tenants and the owner occupiers, they failed to reinvest any of these monies back into the area.”

Last year, Accent sold 166 properties in the village for a total of £2.8m, which it says was reinvested in other areas with a higher demand for social housing. A spokeswoman says: “To date, 242 of the houses with no demand for rent have been sold and a further four remain for sale.” She says it currently has 29 empty homes across the whole of County Durham, with two in Horden.

In a statement, the housing association says: “This decision was a reflection of the changing needs of this community which we continue to support,” the statement says. “Despite significant advertising and incentives to let them, we had no success. The cost of maintaining the empty properties was around £600,000 per annum.”

At the same time, Accent says it has seen increasing demand for homes for older people and those with health needs. “As a result, we have invested almost £9m in bungalows in these villages,” a spokeswoman says.

Councillor Kevin Shaw, Durham county council’s cabinet member for strategic housing, says the number of empty housing association properties in County Durham “has fluctuated in the last few years for a variety of reasons”.

He adds: “In order to ensure that social housing is meeting need and demand, registered providers are undertaking a range of investment and regeneration projects. Some properties are being sold, limited demolition is taking place and there is the usual turnover within the sector. Naturally these activities can lead to properties being empty for a period of time, but registered providers and ourselves are committed to bringing them back into use as quickly as possible.”
The economic and social problem blighting places such as Horden continue ... this one really takes the biscuit ?

http://www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/news/an ... -1-8811022

Anger as " Cowardly " arsonists torch shop which raises thousands for Hartlepool hospice

Reports in several local rags of raids on local food banks.

As for Horden , not many would now argue against the whole town being flattened , and , rebuilt by the Authorities who , through their negligence , have left the manor and it's citizens devoid of hope and ... more importantly , it's very soul !

If that's not all , the UC steamroller has hit town this month ... and not to assist with the slum clearance ... oh no ... human beings it's main target !

For the local authority , Durham County Council , every penny does really matter :

Durham Council apologises over 7p tax bill.

Durham County Council has apologised for sending a great-grandmother a demand for a few pence outstanding on a 12-year-old council tax bill.

Anything for them outside the advice team on this forum / site ?

Want to swop with a carer in Horden ?
Ground zero ... Ebbw Vale , South Wales ... an unfortunate welcome to this thread :

https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/ ... -ebbw-vale

‘There’s no life here’: a journey into Britain’s precarious future.

Author James Bloodworth spent six months investigating our changing economy. In Ebbw Vale, he finds the human cost of the end of heavy industry and asks what the next upheaval will bring.

At the Ebbw Vale steelworks in the south Wales valleys, thousands of men once laboured to produce the steel that helped to drive Britain’s industrial revolution. The steelworks closed for good 15 years ago, and today a familiar fare decorates the town’s mournful high street: pound shops, arcades, bookies. On the brief walk from one end to the other, I count three pawnbrokers.

“It ain’t worth looking for any work up here,” Rob Smyth, a youth worker tells me. “I tell you what – I’m glad I’m old because if I was young now I’d be struggling, you know? I know people who’ve got degrees and all the rest of it, and they can’t get work. You’ve got to settle somewhere else and make a life for yourself. There’s no life up here, no life at all. I only live here because it’s cheap, and it’s close to where I work.”

Ebbw Vale is the largest town in the county of Blaenau Gwent. This autumn the county was found to be the cheapest place to buy a home in England and Wales (averaging £777 per sq m in 2016, compared with £19,439 for the most expensive, London’s Kensington and Chelsea). It offers the second-lowest mean salary in Britain, and its GCSE results are the worst in Wales. Five food banks operate within an area of about 42 square miles.

People here are struggling economically and physically. It’s a grim irony that an area encompassing the former constituency of Aneurin Bevan, architect of the National Health Service, should today be facing a quietly unfolding health crisis. Some 12% of working-age residents receive government support for disability or incapacity – twice the national average. Life expectancy for both men and women is among the lowest in England and Wales. Out of a population of 60,000, one in every six adults is being prescribed an antidepressant, according to NHS data from 2013.

“GPs haven’t got time to listen, to talk to people, to find out what’s going on. They’ve got that five- or 10-minute slot, somebody’s in tears, they’re saying they’re depressed,” Tara Johnstone tells me at the Phoenix Project, the publicly funded drop-in centre where she works in nearby Brynmawr. It’s run by a local charity, Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent Mind, and people come to chat about their problems: anxiety, depression, illness, bereavement. Most stories revolve around the same theme.

“It’s lack of work,” explains Trish Richards, another Phoenix staff member. “I’ve had people come to me on zero-hours contracts. They don’t know where they are from one week to the next. Can’t plan. Can’t even plan to go to the dentist in case they get called in to work.”

In the face of so many present-day problems, it’s all too easy to become wistful for a lost golden era of nationalised industry that brought secure jobs and forged strong communities. The low-paid jobs in call centres and distribution sheds, most located in bigger cities, that eventually arrived to replace the noise and filth of the pits were cleaner and safer, but they lacked the solidarity and support networks. Soon they, too, may disappear.

First globalisation, then austerity; now automation looms on the horizon. South Wales is particularly vulnerable, being heavily reliant on exactly the low-skilled jobs which are easiest to send offshore and automate out of existence. If they go, then so too may the young people who commute to these jobs from places such as Blaenau Gwent.

“It’s the easiest thing in the world to put your foot on someone’s head when they’re drowning. And that’s what you see around here,” Wayne Hodgins, an independent councillor for Brynmawr, tells me when we meet in one of the few pubs that are still open. “There was factories employing 100, 200 people. That factory environment – your friends, your colleagues – became an extension of your family.”

The professionalisation of even entry-level work has made it very difficult to find employment without some form of academic qualification or accredited skill. Consequently, Hodgins says, people here can feel worthless because they are “getting rejection letters right, left and centre ... They’ve got nothing to get them out of bed in the morning.”

This, in many cases, can lead to a prescription for antidepressants. “There’s a lot of people on social [benefits], there’s a lot ill,” says Allan Price, a former miner who volunteers at the South Wales Miners’ museum amid the slopes of the Afan Valley, high above Port Talbot. “Everybody in my village will tell you they know them. And lots of them come from good men and good families – hardworking.”

The deindustrialisation experiment inflicted on the valleys in the 1980s offers a cautionary tale for the next big transition. The region stands as an example of how not to move from one form of economic life to another – the Thatcherite omelette left many broken eggs.

“Automation is a risk to many occupations across Wales and the UK,” says Professor Julie Lydon, chair of Universities Wales who recently wrote an article entitled The Robots are Coming.

The key to avoiding a repeat of the devastation caused when the mines and factories shut is investment in skills, according to Lydon. “Demand in Wales for jobs that require higher-level skills is increasing, and evidence shows these jobs are less vulnerable to automation. We must focus on developing skills which are with you for life, and make you more adaptable and employable through your career. This will mean building on existing collaboration between universities, employers and colleges, and finding new ways to provide these skills, such as through degree apprenticeships.”

This will require government and employers to take more action than they have so far been prepared to do. Research in 2014 indicated that employers in Wales lagged behind the rest of the country in offering training: just 62% said they had done so in the previous 12 months, compared to the UK average of 66%.

Nick Smith, MP for Blaenau Gwent, says some investment in road infrastructure has already arrived, and that the area must revive its tourist industry. “There’s been £200m provided by the Welsh government. We’ve also had in the last 10 years a new railway line from Cardiff to Ebbw Vale. If we improve transport infrastructure, I think it will help Blaenau Gwent as a destination, to enjoy the fantastic scenery. I’m a hiker, and there’s nothing better than to get up there and to fill your lungs with the fresh air.”

Rebuilding dignity

Cath Jones is 31 and before she showed up at the Phoenix Project looking for help, she’d been in and out of mental health institutions since she was 15. “In three, four years I had 50 admissions to a psychiatric ward,” she tells me over a cup of milky tea. “I was on five or six different antidepressants, antipsychotics, sleeping tablets, diazepam. You name it, I was on it.”

She insists she’d have been “six feet under” were it not for the help and advice she received at the Phoenix.

In terms of getting people fit, well and – eventually – back to work, Trish Richards tells me that the Westminster government is lukewarm about initiatives such as the Phoenix Project. “They don’t see the fact that somebody getting up in the morning, getting dressed and coming here is a big achievement,” she says. “They want outcomes, they want results, they want little boxes ticked.”

But Jones stands as proof of what schemes such as this can produce. Having stabilised her life, she now volunteers at the centre. She’s not alone: it has often been former service users themselves who helped to keep the project running.

“It’s people that have been there, done it and got the T-shirt,” says Richards, pointing proudly at Jones . “She’s brilliant at helping people because she’s been there. She’s been at rock bottom.”

The project may offer a lesson as to how to rebuild the dignity of the south Wales valleys. People can be knocked down by the sweep of powerful economic forces, but solidarity and compassion can help them back to their feet.

“Another lady [who came to us] – two years ago she had planned how she was going to kill herself, wasn’t going to tell anyone,” Richards tells me as I leave the Brynmawr community centre and head back to the relative prosperity of Bristol, just 50 miles away. “She’s now got three jobs in a school.”

There's a lot I can relate to in the above article just by looking around here in Worksop.

The life blood being sucked out with very little to replace it ... in terms of jobs and future prospects.

Another area now blighted with the only real prospect of advancement being to move away.

For many , that prospect is not feasible if on low income and close to retirement.
Ground zero ... Redcar ... closure of the steel works in 2011 and the aftermath.

Keeping a close eye on this one as it mirror images what happened to the former mining communities ( Worksop being just one ) and as one of my long term contacts is on the ground " Assisting " the depleted task force.


Redcar SSI closure recovery 'long and challenging'.


The road to recovery after Redcar's SSI steelworks closure will be "long and challenging", a report has found.

But the task force set up after 2,200 people lost their jobs in 2105 also noted "a good start" had been made.

Many ex-workers' salaries though are not at the level they were pre-closure.

For some, an inability to match former earnings or maintain their lifestyle had a "devastating impact" on general wellbeing, health and relationships, the report said.

The reduction in personal spending power also had an impact on the wider service economy, and was felt particularly on high streets and town centres.

Government funding of £16m for start-ups and training has led to more than 1,800 new jobs and the creation of hundreds of businesses.

'Back to life'

A couple - along with their son, also a former SSI worker - were helped to set up a wine and cocktail bar on the site of an empty shop in Redcar.

Gerry Morrison said: "This part of town is coming back to life with cafés, pubs and restaurants and it's exciting to be part of it."


The report collected data from the start-up firms once they had been trading for 26 weeks and found more than 91% of businesses were still operational.

However, it noted the level of failure was slightly higher than the national average of 7.8%, and above the Tees Valley level of 6.8%.

The most recent to close its doors was a Jamaican food business set up in Middlesbrough by former production operator Mark Hill.

Launched in May 2016 with help from the Business Advice Start Up Fund, it ceased trading on Friday - having been highlighted as a success in the task force's newly released report.

'Constant worry'

Mr Hill, who is from Kingston in Jamaica, called for more help for those launching firms.

He said: "I miss the job [at SSI] and the sense of security I had week in, week out.

"It's a constant worry for me, for my family.

"They helped me with the business plan and put forward a bid for funding of up to £10,000, but I had to take out loans and use my savings."

'Well-paid jobs'

The task force is to make further funding available across the whole of the Teesside economy to encourage existing businesses to create more jobs.

Amanda Skelton, chair of the SSI task force and chief executive of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, said: "We do not underestimate that there is still much to be done to help people survive and thrive following redundancy and prepare for new opportunities ahead.

"Our focus is now on creating a long-term sustainable economy with better, well-paid jobs and prospects for everyone.

"We want to build on the success of the business start-up scheme by widening this opportunity to others across the Tees Valley, encouraging that entrepreneurial spirit across the whole area."

Those readers with basic economics will know of " The Multiplier Effect " when additional monies are made available to a community.

In Redcar , as with many former mining communities , the reverse is happening ... monies being sucked out.

The result ?

A generation or two of declining economic and social life.



Ground zero ... Grimsby , North East Lincolnshire ... former number one fishing port ... until the 1980s.

Local mp , Melanie Onn , known to readers through the KINSHIP CARERS thread.

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018 ... reat-again

The battle to make Grimsby great again.

Zoe Moore grew up in Grimsby, not far from her family’s chip shop. She visited the docks every day with her mum to buy the fish they would later skin, fillet and fry. Now Moore is a manager for Young’s Seafood, which supplies the breaded cod found in the freezers of corner shops countrywide; she attended last year’s carnival dressed as a fish finger. The twentysomething is a Grimbarian made good, but she’s not celebrating. Something is wrong in her town.

“Mum’s had CCTV [installed] on her house,” says Moore. “People try to steal cars on her street. They even cut the brake lines [of her car] and put fireworks in it. There have been stabbings. It’s awful.”

Things were rough when Moore was a child, but since then the area has declined badly. One of the people she went to school with was recently killed in a drug deal. After police got wise to dealers using teenagers to run drugs for them, some now use primary school kids. Moore shows me a video she took on Freeman Street in East Marsh – once a thriving main drag that, in a bit of Grimsby lore meant to underline its affluence, housed not one but two Marks & Spencer stores – that shows two men on the synthetic drug spice, shuffling and twitching on the spot.

Grimsby’s problems in 2018 are manifold: skills shortages, long-term jobless families, deprivation, drugs, homelessness, empty homes, fly-tipping, children in care. The government’s indices of deprivation in 2015 ranked East Marsh as the fourth worst place in the UK for employment, the second for crime and the worst for education, skills and training.

Channel 4 filmed the “poverty porn” documentary Skint here in 2014, which added to an endless reel of breadline absurdities served up by the local tabloid, the Grimsby Telegraph (recent headline: “Mystery over blood-soaked man wandering shoeless in East Marsh”). It all cast Grimsby as a damned place, grotesquely parodied by Sacha Baron Cohen in his prole-baiting B-movie of the same name.

Some feel Grimsby is damned by its name alone, which according to legend derives from its ninth-century Danish founder, Grim. There are, however, big plans to change the town’s fate.

The Greater Grimsby Town Deal proposal is chaired by the Grimsby-born co-founder of Carphone Warehouse, David Ross, and has former chancellor Norman Lamont on its board. (Ross is a major Tory donor.) The plan, which Theresa May called “ambitious”, was mentioned in the government’s recent industrial strategy white paper. It aims to bolster the local economy by £216m a year, by growing the renewable energy industry, creating “enterprise zones” and encouraging investment in logistics, manufacturing, chemicals/petrochemicals and food processing.

Meanwhile, North East Lincolnshire Council is talking up a new economic plan for the region, targeting 8,800 jobs over the next 15 years – plus 13,000 new homes.

Another project, Our Place in the World 2018, run by developers Tom and Claire Shutes in partnership with InnovationRCA and UnLtd, is a callout to startups, students and the local community to submit business plans, ideas and social enterprises that will contribute to the town’s regeneration. Tom Shutes’s grandfather used to keep boats in Grimsby, and he says he is investing in the area after seeing the decline firsthand. He wants to build a centre of excellence for construction designed by DT GCSE students to give educational support and produce apprentices. “If a local person can say, ‘I designed that,’ I think you are already a long way to breaking the back of the chip on their shoulder,” he says.

But bring up regeneration in Grimsby and people roll their eyes. While in a cab heading down Freeman Street, the driver pointed out to me out a stretch of fairly new pavement, and some angled street lights. “They built that pavement, but had to pull it up again and re-lay it. They had to move the lights because buses couldn’t get under them.”

There have been endless regeneration plans. Some have come to fruition before quickly dying, like the Riverhead development in the 2000s, which attempted to bring cafe culture to the town centre but has since emptied of the chain bars and restaurants it once held.

Many others, such as the repeatedly stated plan for a pedestrian-friendly marina by the docks, never even reached the development stage.

The two types of city

In Grimsby’s 1930s heyday, fishermen used to head to Freeman Street as soon as they were off the trawler, straight to the Lincoln or the Corporation Arms to spend their bountiful earnings. A century previously, Grimsby had been a fairly sleepy fishing village, but by the 1890s it was on the way to becoming the biggest fishing port in the world. In the mid 20th-century, trawlers were bringing in 500 tonnes of fish a day.

Today, Grimsby still has a thriving indoor market (paid for by the EU and the Enrolled Freemen of Grimsby, an organisation that dates back to the 13th century), but the further north towards the docks you walk, the emptier and more dilapidated things get. A local businessman says sex workers wait around at night for lorries to take them to the deserted docks. “It’s a legacy of the old fishing days.”

There is scant legacy to be found elsewhere. After a long decline, the fishing industry died in the mid 1980s, its owners selling their trawlers to companies in Aberdeen or Japan. Unlike Hull across the river, currently basking in its year as Capital of Culture, Grimsby is the Humber city that never was.

“This community was solely built around an industry that doesn’t exist anymore,” says Stephen Ryder, managing director of charity Community Press Office (CPO), which specialises in up-skilling residents and giving extensive help to families in crisis. “I grew up in York in the 1980s, and spent a lot of time in Leeds and Sheffield and places like that, and they were run down. You go there now, and they have been transformed. There has been regeneration money here in the last 20 years, but you can’t see anything.”

Some say Grimsby’s plight is due to its isolation, in an area of north-east Lincolnshire surrounded by field and marshland. Cleethorpes, Grimsby’s slightly better-heeled neighbour on this lip of the Humber estuary, is at the end of the train line. The Humber bridge, which takes you over the river to Hull, is a 24-mile drive west of Grimsby, meaning the town doesn’t receive any passing traffic. If you come to Grimsby, you come for a reason. By train, the East Midlands local connection is often a one-carriage service that gets painfully full; local Conservative MP Martin Vickers has been lobbying for a new high-speed rail link to Grimsby for years, to no avail.

Yet while faster transport would be welcome, shortening the time to and from London would not be a magic bullet. Look at Doncaster or Stoke, around an hour and a half from London, says Centre for Cities head of policy and research Paul Swinney: “Both places don’t do very well in terms of the performance of their economies. They have a low skills profile like Grimsby, which suggests high-speed rail wouldn’t have much of an impact. We have to understand why businesses aren’t coming to a place like Grimsby first.”

There are two broad types of city, says Swinney. Firstly, cities that saw traditional industry leave but reinvented themselves. These places reversed their decline with jobs in new industries that didn’t exist 25 years ago. Brighton is a good example. After the rise of package holidays it fell into decline, but since the 1970s it has attracted knowledge-based service activity, resulting in high-paid, high-skilled jobs.

Grimsby, on the other hand, typifies the second type: cities that “replicated” their economy, replacing reliable low-skill jobs that paid well (in this case, fishing) with precarious low-skilled jobs that don’t pay well (casual factory work). The Centre for Cities, which looks at the largest 63 cities in the UK and defines a city as a settlement of a certain size and economy, stopped tracking Grimsby in 2011.

Though it has long been a byword for the fall of the British fishing industry, Grimsby also continues to reel from years of bad planning decisions, such as the unpopular 1960s redevelopment in Grimsby town centre (or “Top Town”) that catered for car-reliant consumers and erased much of the old town – including, some say, a big chunk of Grimsby’s character. Not a lot of people know that Jack Carter, played by Michael Caine in the 1971 Brit noir classic Get Carter, was local to these parts. The Humber-born writer Ted Lewis’s book Jack Returns Home is set in Scunthorpe and Grimsby, but when it came time to shoot the film, director Mike Hodges preferred Newcastle. “Grimsby had been decimated by developers,” Hodges recalled. “The pubs, cafes and dodgy boarding houses – gone.”

Nick Triplow, another Humber-based writer, has just had a book published on the sad life of Lewis, who died an alcoholic at 42. Triplow moved to the region in 2001 to manage a regeneration funding programme. Since then, he says over a pint in the Wetherspoon pub that occupies the former grand Yarborough Hotel (erected shortly after the railway station next door in the mid-19th century when Grimsby was thriving), he has seen a lot of money spent with little effect. He remembers particularly the New Labour days, when Grimsby was earmarked for regeneration and Barnsley was tipped to become the next Tuscany (spoiler alert: it didn’t).

“Some very well-paid consultants came up and told us of all the wonderful plans for Grimsby, everybody got very excited about it, and nothing happened,” says Triplow. “There were agencies in the town who were taking a fair chunk of funding to create jobs. [The agencies] would say they had extremely good figures for the amount of jobs created. So why are there so many unemployed people? If somebody said they wanted to start a window cleaning service, they’d say that was a ‘job created’. They had no idea if they were still in business later on.”

Yet grassroots organisations have learned from this short-termism. CPO started in 2002 making publications with local communities to educate and empower. It was only meant to last four years, but it has since grown into one of Grimsby’s key grassroots charities, among other things securing £340,000 in lottery funding along with sister charity CatZero to deliver a programme to support entire families approaching crisis point in East Marsh.

But what Grimsby needs, says the CPO’s Ryder, is an almost 2012 Olympics-sized investment. For him, the key comparison is Liverpool.

“You can’t tell me that the underlying issues that existed on Merseyside in the 1980s are any different from the underlying issues that exist here now,” he says. “We’ve got a skills gap, we’ve got an investment gap, we’ve got huge social problems and we’ve got problems with our infrastructure. It’s got to be a proper plan.”

But any lasting regeneration has to bring local people along with it, he stresses. “Parochial doesn’t even define how people are here. People don’t go into Top Town or the seaside.” He has heard Rutland Street is the most criminal street in the country: “Whether that’s true or not, for some it’s almost like the old Millwall mentality: ‘Nobody likes us, we don’t care.’” Residents have started East Marsh United – not a football team, but a plan to somehow face one of the most acute and toxic combinations of factors facing anywhere in the UK.

“The way I look at it, Grimsby is in recovery,” says Sam Delaney, a former London broker who left the City lifestyle behind after his own alcohol-fuelled crisis. He now runs an abstinence-based art programme, Creative Start, from an industrial unit that doubles as a breakfast club for people who can’t afford a decent meal. It’s worthwhile work, but also tough: every so often, someone he is working with dies, and sometimes it’s him who finds the body.

I have caught him on an off day, he says: a new mural celebrating Grimsby’s glorious past, painted by some of the most vulnerable members of its present, has been vandalised just two weeks after completion. “People are positive here, but there is a negative element. They don’t want good stuff to happen.”

Renewable hope

Spend any length of time in Grimsby, though, and the town doesn’t feel like a lost cause. The place is teeming with people trying to alleviate the hardships of fellow Grimbarians. “People are worried about Grimsby, worried about their children,” says Jane Mouncey, who runs a sewing club that caters for women on the 1950s-built Nunsthorpe estate who want to learn new skills. “There is great concern, but I think great hope as well. This centre is phenomenal. There are 150 people a day accessing services here.”

Mouncey’s mum was brought up on the garden city-style estate, so she knows the pride that used to be felt around here. Nunsthorpe has its own share of problems, but locals say the place has improved a lot thanks to work by Linda Dello and the Second Avenue Resource Centre, who took over the old Catholic school. The building now functions as a community cafe, educational resource, social club, and even a supermarket run by Company Shop. It sells fresh produce that Waitrose and Marks and Spencer were going to throw out. As if referencing Grimsby’s past, all fish are £1.

When Mouncey first returned to Grimsby, she worked for Shoreline Housing Partnership. Shoreline owns six big blocks in East Marsh that are all vacant, she says: the bedroom tax has meant that people can’t afford them as social housing, so they’re all coming down this year – the largest demolition job in the country.

“That exact narrative is precisely why people voted so emphatically for Brexit,” says Ryder. “They sit there thinking, ‘I’m having to give up a perfectly good flat and move into a tiny pseudo-squat just so I can live?’”

Wconomically, the big hope today is the renewables industry. Ørsted is investing in windfarms: its base here is set to support the Westermost Rough, Race Bank and Hornsea Project One, Two, Three, Four windfarms, and it has recently taken over the Lincs windfarm at Skegness. Construction takes three to four years, and once the farms are in place Ørsted continue their maintenance. The life cycle of a windfarm is 25 years, meaning Ørsted should be here for the long haul; and people desperately want renewables to fill in where fishing left off.

There is a big question, though, about how many people Ørsted can possibly employ in the area. Currently, it has fewer than 200 workers here. What’s more, how do you connect local people to the jobs that are created? The company’s managing director, Matthew Wright, has visited the local John Whitgift Academy to speak to year-10s about the energy industry; Ryder says they need to start much younger. “If Ørsted want to make a lasting change, they need to sit down and ask: what are the issues that are affecting the community? How can a child who is in year two now have a realistic chance of earning really good money in this industry later on?”

Angela Blake, director of economy and growth for North East Lincolnshire Council, points to 195 hectares of land earmarked for a new enterprise zone along the south bank of the Humber. The river in general is being touted as the “energy estuary”, and there has been a big increase in enquiries from the renewable energy sector – not just wind, but solar farms and energy from waste recycling. Infrastructural improvements are planned; Network Rail is investing in freight.

Long-term political infighting on North East Lincolnshire council takes much of the blame for the town’s inertia, but austerity hasn’t helped either. Blake has been with the local authority since 2011, and she feels they have since made progress. The council are in early discussions with universities about a higher-education presence for Top Town, and at Alexandra Docks, the old Victoria Mills to be repurposed. The shopping centre Freshney Place has meanwhile proposed a cinema redevelopment at the riverhead – but, with a multiplex cinema already three miles away in Cleethorpes, not to mention a global Netflix addiction, some say it feels like a 20th-century answer to a 21st-century question.

Tate Modern: Grimsby depot

And what if it is really a 19th-century question?

Situated behind some unceremonious grey fencing on a securitised street run by the Association of British Ports (ABP), the Ice Factory at Grimsby docks was built in 1898 to keep fresh the huge volume of fish being brought into the port.

A marvel of engineering when it opened, it ceased operations in 1990 and has now become a looming example of the trouble with heritage. The structure has its own dedicated trust that campaigns for its future, and the machinery inside is Grade-I listed, but that hasn’t stopped a layer of rust, algae and pigeon excrement from covering its once-cherished interior.

ABP owns the Ice Factory but is tight-lipped about any plans to regenerate it; the company’s Humber director, Simon Bird, says it is in discussions with North East Lincolnshire council. He describes Grimsby as a port with a positive future: the Humber is the busiest estuary in the UK for trade, with 80m tonnes of cargo passing through Grimsby, Immingham and Hull annually; Grimsby also “supports something like 7,000 jobs in the immediate area”, Bird notes.

The company has been granted planning consent to develop 100 acres of land to the west of Grimsby for more “car storage and enhancement”, to help with the huge volume of car imports and exports (although the land development proper will create a relatively small number of jobs).

But the port’s lively economic statistics are in stark contrast to its atmosphere of stasis. It feels like a high-security ghost town. The area known as the Kasbah wouldn’t look out of place in a deleted scene of Get Carter, its old terraces housing abandoned businesses, including a net-curtained greasy spoon that looks like the owners did a runner decades ago. Nearby, there are food-processing warehouses still working, and the fish market carries on, though predominantly selling produce caught by trawlers from elsewhere.

The Kasbah is due to become a conservation area as part of Grimsby’s heritage initiative; Historic England and North East Lincolnshire council are in conversation about its future, although ABP isn’t keen on public access. Bird was present at the recent regeneration meetings chaired by David Ross and says ABP wants the best for Grimsby. He is proud of the 700 jobs ABP provides for the Humber, and its work with the sea cadets, but ultimately his job is to make the port a success for investors in Canada and Singapore, not a local public desperately seeking a sense of collective pride and local identity.

Grimbarians feel isolated many times over: from London, from the rest of the country, from the docks where husbands said goodbye to wives before a few treacherous weeks at sea, and from the dead fishing industry through which it faced the world. Grimsby has become a place where municipal decisions are always pending. There are no guarantees with this latest wave of hopes: it could all be scuppered by more political infighting, or private enterprise pulling out. Who knows what will happen after Brexit.

Marc Renshaw is a local artist whose work thrives on this sense of inertia. It imagines incongruous uses for Grimsby’s beyond-repair spaces: in his doctored photographs, the old Ice Factory becomes Tate Modern, Grimsby Depot; the abandoned dockside caff is the London Stock Exchange: Grimsby. “I just imagined different companies based there,” he says. “Why not put Bloomberg there?”

The work has a Shrigleyesque irony, but also a sense of optimism, and above all, says Renshaw, potential. In Top Town, on a high street filled with boarded-up lots, Renshaw and his partner, Ellie Collins, who is also an artist, are preparing to opening an art space called Blip in a recently abandoned clothes shop. Grimsby isn’t a place people usually visit for art, but the couple are still excited about the potential of the space. “I don’t know whether Grimsby has an audience for critical art yet, but you don’t until you’ve tried,” says Collins. “And this is a good way to start.”

As Collins sets up the window display, a woman carrying shopping bags comes in. She used to work here years ago, she says, when it was a hairdressing parlour, and is just glad someone has filled the space with life again.



A common theme running through this thread.

Main industry now gone ... mining / steel / fishing.

Nothing to replace better paying jobs.

Economic and social decline ... local services overwhelmed.

Outside experts brought in only to make things worse.

The very heart ... and soul .... ripped out of the communities.

Those younger people leaving as soon as they can to find better prospects elsewhere.

As if such areas were casaulties of an economic war ... left on the battlefield to rot away ?

How many carers / carees have to survive in areas like these ???
Ground zero ... Blackpool ... needs no introduction for many readers ?

https://www.theguardian.com/society/201 ... eprivation

Blackpool struggles to kick heroin amid seaside deprivation.

Locals blame poverty and budget cuts for its position as a national hotspot for deaths from the drug.

When Johnny first tried heroin in 1987 aged 15, he had been told the drug was a bit like cannabis. “If someone had said to me then, ‘See that bag of brown powder you’re picking up? Kiss goodbye to the next 30 years of your life’, I would have thought twice.”

The 47-year-old has been off the drug for nine months and says he has never felt so well, but many of his friends have not been so lucky. Over the years he has been to the funerals of 19 people who have died from drug overdoses. “I hung around with 22 lads when I was growing up, and there are three of them left now,” he says.

Johnny’s experience is not unique. His hometown, Blackpool, was one of seven coastal towns to feature in a list this week of 10 local authorities in England and Wales with the highest rates of heroin deaths, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The Lancashire seaside resort tops that list and has recorded the highest rate of deaths involving heroin or morphine of any other council district since 2010. There were 14 heroin misuse deaths per 100,000 people in 2016, compared with the national average of 1.7 in England and 2.3 in Wales. That is almost twice as high as the borough with the next highest rate – Burnley, with 7.6 per 100,000.

Arif Rajpura, Blackpool’s director of public health, says the high death rate was due to a number of factors, most of which were linked to poverty. The town has plenty of very cheap accommodation – often in former tourist guesthouses – which attracts hard-up people from surrounding areas.

“Blackpool imports its ill health,” he says. “People are often running away from something. They’ve got a positive memory of Blackpool from visiting as a child and they see Blackpool as a place to go where they can find cheap housing.”

The situation in the town, Rajpura says, is also part of a national picture in which heroin deaths have more than doubled between 2012 and 2016, from 579 to 1,201. He points to analysis by Public Health England that partly attributed the rising death rate to the increasingly frail “Trainspotting generation” – people who started using the drug in the late 80s and 90s and whose health has been ruined by decades of addiction.

Gordon Marsden, the MP for Blackpool South, says the ability of local authorities such as Blackpool to deal with problems like drug abuse had been seriously hindered by cuts to council budgets. Blackpool council has lost £450m from its budget over the past seven years. “When you look at that in the context of a relatively small unitary authority – with a population of around 150,000 – that is a lot of money,” he says.

Marsden is also keen to point out that the problems the town faces are shared with other coastal areas. Bournemouth, Portsmouth, Hastings, Thanet, Swansea and Neath Port Talbot also appear on the list of heroin death hotspots. “Seaside towns often have far more in common with each other, even if they’re 200 miles apart, than they have with towns that are 20 miles inland,” he says.

It is a view shared by Will Jennings, a senior lecturer in politics at the University of Southampton and co-founder of the Centre for Towns, a thinktank that has highlighted the exodus of young people from smaller towns to find work in big cities. The demise of many British seaside towns cannot be viewed as part of the general trend of deindustrialisation that brought economic decline in some of their inland neighbours, he argues.

“This is about a very long-term historical arc over 50 years,” says Jennings. “At a certain point in history, around 100 years ago, they were actually quite affluent leisure destinations.” The rise of foreign travel hit places like Blackpool, he says, and the fact that many seaside towns are poorly connected to big cities means young people have had to move away to find work.

Ian Treasure, the service manager at the charity Blackpool Fulfilling Lives, insists the town is taking innovative steps to tackle its problems. “Every seaside town has this dichotomy of the glitzy promenade and then the problems behind the scenes, but the work that is going on in Blackpool is really making a difference.”

The charity is one of scores of groups in the town working to help its most vulnerable residents. Established in 2014 in partnership with the national charity Addaction using £10m of lottery funding, it works with people who are struggling with mental health issues, drug addiction, and homelessness. Staff and volunteers, many of whom have had experience of drug addiction themselves, work with individuals to navigate the system and access services – accompanying them to appointments and helping them fill out forms.

“Blackpool is serious about trying to reverse the tide on the negative publicity we’ve had because look around today, it’s wonderful,” Treasure says. “It’s sunny, it’s warm, there are people shopping. It’s a lovely place to be.”

He thinks everybody in the town should feel a sense of responsibility to help address its drug problems. “I live in Blackpool and one of the things I find upsetting is when people say, ‘Oh, this town is a tip’, because what are they doing to try and change things? Everybody has a role to play.”

These days Johnny spends his time volunteering at Blackpool Fulfilling Lives, and is learning to drive. “I want to carry on volunteering for a bit and then work and get a job,” he says. “I want to help people turn their lives around, like people have helped me.”

Although he has not always had the best time in Blackpool, he enjoys living there. “I love the atmosphere. I love the people. I loved growing up here. My family are here and I would never leave. I had bad times here, but that was my own doing. It was nothing to do with Blackpool.”

It seems several seaside towns , Blackpool the most publisised , are now in a similiar position of many ex mining towns back in the 1990s/ early 2000s ... my manor , Worksop , being a prime example , at one time , top of the charts for drug abuse !

Suck the heart and very soul out of these areas / towns and what is left ??????

Drug abuse is NO remedy ... only offers a short term relief from day-to-day reality ... at a price nobody can afford to pay !!!

My contact on the Redcar Regeneration Taskforce reports the same ... main employer being the now closed steelworks ... the word HOPE being replaced by the word DESPAIR.

In reality , it's a case of either " Get on yer bike " or make the most from an ever increasing , downward , area in respect of opportunities.
Ground zero .... Barrow-in-Furness .... home to our nuclear submarine industry and ... precious little else ?

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/201 ... -blackpool

Death by the sea: how drug abuse is scarring Britain’s coastal towns.

Seaside communities have the highest rates of heroin deaths in England – and Barrow-in-Furness is one of the hardest hit ‘brown towns’.

What are the causes – and is there a solution?

In Barrow, Thirsty Thursday wasn’t as billed. Traditionally it’s the night when the thousands of employees working in the town’s cavernous warehouses where the next generation of Britain’s nuclear submarines are being built, hit the pubs.

But last Thursday the Cumbrian coastal town seemed preternaturally quiet. By 6pm there were more seagulls than people in the town centre. A couple of restaurants were doing a lively trade, thanks to special happy-hour offers, but most were empty. Scores of boarded-up shops and “to let” signs suggested Barrow had seen better times.

Geography plays a big part in this story. Clinging to the bottom of a peninsula overlooking the Irish Sea, Barrow, or Barrow-in-Furness to give it its proper name, is a place that few outside the defence, wind power or extractive gas industries are likely to visit. If anyone knows anything about Barrow it’s that it was the birthplace of footballer Emlyn Hughes and in 2014 was judged by the Office for National Statistics to be the most miserable place in Britain.

Unlike Blackpool down the coast, there is no end-of-the-pier feel about Barrow. It’s a working town of terraced houses and tenements built when Barrow’s shipyards were thriving. But with only one road in and one road out, even those who live in the town accept that it can seem an isolated place. “They call it the longest cul-de-sac in Britain,” jokes Kimber-Lee Moore, 27, a bar worker who moved to the town from Carlisle four years ago. They are calling it something else, too, now.

After 12 drug-related deaths since December, Barrow is now Britain’s most infamous “brown town”. A place that was once dubbed England’s Chicago because its economy was growing so fast is now synonymous with heroin.

Cumbria’s heroin problem is not new. Scores of towns on the periphery of the Lake District have had their problems down the years. Penrith, 70 miles inland from Barrow, shed its reputation as a brown town years ago. But the scale of what is happening in Barrow has shocked even those with first-hand experience of the problem.

“There have been drugs deaths elsewhere in the county, but not to the degree we’ve seen in Barrow. It’s totally disproportionate,” said DCI Nick Coughlan of Cumbria police. “The town’s population is only 67,000, so this is a lot.”

To put this in perspective: fewer than two people per 100,000 of the population died from heroin or morphine misuse in England and Wales in 2016, the latest figures available. In Blackpool, the town that has the highest heroin death rate, the figure rises to 14 in 100,000. Barrow, tragically, is in danger of breaking all records before 2018 is even halfway through.

“The deaths in Barrow are not all directly attributable to heroin, but the drugs they are using are ones we associate with heroin users,” Coughlan said. “Often they have taken cocktails of different drugs. Sometimes they involve heroin, sometimes methadone, sometimes other drugs.”

Barrow’s unwelcome place on the growing list of coastal towns hit by the effects of drug addiction (six of the 10 heroin misuse hotspots in England and Wales last year were by the sea) has made it the subject of national attention. In recent weeks newspapers, websites and the BBC have descended on the town to cover the story, much to the dismay of Barrow’s supporters.

“It’s stereotyping every hardworking person in the town,” said Craig O’Callaghan, a contractor from Middlesbrough who spends weeks at a time in Barrow when he’s working on the gas rigs.

“It has pockets of problems, but it’s not the Bronx,” Moore agreed.

But Coughlan, who was once a sergeant in Barrow and calls its residents “salt of the earth people”, said the police had intelligence suggesting there has been an increase in the amount of drugs entering the town in recent months. Whether this reflects wider national trends is hard to say. Evidence is conflicting.

The number of heroin seizures has been decreasing in the past three years. But purity levels have shot up to near 50%, a vast recovery from the “heroin drought” of 2011 when levels dropped to as low as 18%, something that suggests the drug is becoming more available.

What has changed, without doubt, is the nature of the supply network. Whereas it was once gangs from Liverpool and Manchester bringing the drugs in, criminal enterprises from as far away as Scotland, Birmingham and London are now coercing teenagers to move the drugs, sometimes forcing them to swallow the wraps of heroin to avoid detection.

“People are travelling from much further afield, and the reason is that there’s a market,” said Coughlan, who spoke to the Observer last Thursday shortly after Cumbria police arrested two members of a drugs gang from Tower Hamlets in London targeting Barrow. “When people are prepared to travel a 600-mile round trip, you can see there is a thriving market here.”

According to Coughlan, the battle to carve out a share of the Barrow heroin market has been mirrored with an increase in violence as gangs use baseball bats and knives to establish their territory. Beatings of addicts who cannot pay their drug debts are also on the rise. So, too, is the practice of “cuckooing” – when a gang takes over an addict’s house and uses it as a base for dealing.

Neil Woods, a former undercover police officer who infiltrated drugs gangs and wrote a book about the experience, Good Cop Bad War, said the “county lines” phenomenon –when gangs operate far outside their base – was dramatically changing the shape of the UK drugs market.

“In the past three years it’s become absolutely enormous,” he said. “Large criminal gangs have got monopolies and so people who want to make money are taking over the smaller towns.”

Dr Robert Ralphs, reader in criminology at Manchester Metropolitan University, said technology had transformed the market. “Twenty years ago, when I started research on heroin and drug-dealing gangs or networks, most drug purchases took place around public phone boxes and in open areas such as shopping centres and high streets. Mobile phone technology makes it much easier for deals to take place in closed markets. Setting up a young person in a different city or town is also much easier due to mobile phones.”

Teenagers, often lured into working for the gangs through the offer of free cannabis, also make good drug couriers. Less likely to have a police record, they don’t invite attention.

Woods, who left the force five years ago and is now UK chairman of Law Enforcement Action Partnership, a body that campaigns against the current drug laws, saw the “county lines” phenomenon at first hand when he helped target Birmingham’s notorious Burger Bar Boys gang as it expanded into Northampton.

“It was a huge success: 96 people were arrested and the Burger Bar Boys got something like 10 years apiece. Afterwards I spoke to the drug intelligence officer on the case. He said we’d managed to interrupt the drug flow into Northampton for two hours. The police never change the size of the market – they only change the shape of the market.”

But as police forces struggle with budget cuts, their ability to gather intelligence and infiltrate gangs is diminished. “There’s less of us now than there was a few years ago, so it’s more challenging,” Coughlan said. “We can’t do as much as we did before.”

Perhaps partly for this reason, police and crime commissioners are stressing the need for other agencies to do some of the heavy lifting.

“Of course the number of deaths from drug use in Barrow is extremely worrying – and tragic to see lives wasted needlessly,” said Cumbria’s police and crime commissioner Peter McCall. “It is important that we recognise that enforcement is not the only answer to this problem. We must as a society recognise that we need to address the causes of drug abuse. This is not just a police issue – our partners in the local council and other agencies all have a part to play.”

Other commissioners would go much further. Some advocate the use of drug consumption rooms in town centres – something that is supported by health experts alarmed by the country’s rising number of drug deaths: 3,744 people died of drug poisoning in England and Wales in 2016, the highest number since records began in 1993. In the past 25 years there has been an eightfold increase in the number of death certificates in which heroin is cited as a factor in the person’s death.

In Barrow heroin misuse has become associated with one particular district – Barrow Island down by the warehouses where defence giant BAE builds the submarines – and, in particular, Egerton Court, a rundown tenement block, home to four of the 12 people who have died. Here, rubbish litters the stairwells and there’s broken furniture on the pavements.


The communal playground in the court’s centre has been ripped out and some of the windows are boarded up. Conspicuously pinned to a lamppost is a domestic violence protection order issued by Barrow magistrates court banning one Christopher Poore from entering Egerton Court until 16 May – a sign, locals say, of how the police are trying to make the area safer. Kay Turner, 30, a care worker who used to rent a flat in the court and now lives nearby, pays tribute to the spirit of residents. “Best thing about living in Barrow? The community. But you’re always going to get problems. There’s not a lot to do.”

Egerton Court stands out because it is one of three tenement blocks that has not been renovated. Others adjoining it have been given facelifts and attractive modern interiors. Their communal gardens could grace the Chelsea flower show. Turned into serviced apartments, they are rented out to BAE contractors who return to their families at weekends, taking their pay packets with them. Mark Roberts, 47, runs the local newsagent. He was born in Egerton Court but moved out with his parents when he was four as their flat didn’t have a bathroom.

In the early 1990s, Roberts witnessed families moving out to buy houses elsewhere that had monthly mortgages costing less than they were paying in rent. The BAE contract workers who have now moved in, Roberts notes, don’t spend their money in the town. So where do they, then? “Lancaster, Preston, Manchester, Amazon.” And there’s fewer of them now.

When Roberts took over the shop in 1989, BAE employed 16,000 people in Barrow. Over the following years, the company shed 10,000 jobs. Today things have improved, but BAE still only employs less than half the number it did 30 years ago.

Roberts is gloomy about the town’s future. “We need to regenerate, but nobody’s going to put investment in if they don’t know it’s going to work.” Some days he toys with leaving. “I love Barrow, but at the moment my emotional attachment to it is getting less and less.” But then he checks himself. “We’re just half an hour from the Lakes. You can’t beat that.”

If anything good can be said to have come from Barrow’s problems it’s that they have dragged a national public health emergency out of the shadows so that it can no longer be ignored.

“It always catches the eye when we get these particular spikes in particular locations, but it’s part of the overall picture of increasing drug deaths over the years now,” said Ed Morrow, drugs policy lead at the Royal Society for Public Health.

“It really goes to illustrate the issues that we’ve been highlighting for a number of years – that we’re not doing enough in harm reduction, not investing enough in treatment services and not ensuring that those treatment services are geared to the right outcomes.”

For Cumbria, with a budget for promoting public health of just £37 per head, compared with the national average of £57, or £179 for the City of London, finding more money for harm reduction programmes is near impossible. The government’s new drug strategy, introduced last year, may also be helping to compound the problem. A national focus on promoting abstinence and refusing heroin substitutes such as methadone to those who fail to stay clean, is concerning health experts.

Last October Colin Cox, Cumbria’s director of public health, presented a report to the council that warned: “It is possible that taking a strict approach to recovery models, such as ending treatment if clients relapse, might mean that people who are not ready to become drug-free are left without access to support and are put at higher risk as a result.”

Danny Kushlick, of the group Transform, which campaigns for an end to prohibition, is scathing about the strategy and the effects it is having on struggling towns across the country.

“The government has prioritised an ideologically driven abstinence-based recovery agenda over proven harm reduction measures and undermined life-saving and life-enhancing initiatives,” he said. Aware of the criticism, Unity, the organisation that provides drug rehabilitation services in Cumbria, told the Observer that it was now working with a number of partners to help addicts remain in treatment.

Significantly, after expressing alarm about the rising national tide of drug deaths and cuts to treatment budgets, the Royal College of Physicians took the unprecedented decision last week to declare that the problem must now be treated as a health, rather than a criminal justice, issue.

But the shifting zeitgeist is unlikely to offer much succour to Barrow or any other of Britain’s brown towns. Their socio-economic problems are too deep-rooted – the result of a collective failure by successive governments to help prop up Britain’s declining industrial heartlands.

Outside his shop Roberts looked over towards the rubbish-strewn backs of the tenements and shook his head. “The people who live there, they just don’t care,” he said. He repeated the local joke about the town being one long cul-de-sac.

“It’s fantastic if you’ve got something to keep you here. But it’s pretty terrible if you haven’t.”

Drugs being the most notable Issue to a wider audience.

However , one has to bear in mind that , like many other former industrial areas , new industry has NOT replaced the old.

We see that time after time ... mining / steel / fishing / manufacturing ... the very heart and soul being ripped out of these manors ... sometimes whole areas.

Hope ... and when there is none ... ???