Discussion Forum
The Seamy Side of Town

From Jonathan Timbers
Saturday, 18 October 2008

Has anyone else noticed how sleazy the centre of town is getting again?

I was in Bar Place at 4 PM on Friday and Crown Street was full of drug dealers. Actually, 2 groups of them - on either side of the road. It was like shootout at the ok coral.

Earlier in the week, I was walking through the park at twilight and passed two young drunks who reeked of alcohol and were stumbling around with bags full of tins and bottles. Then on the bridge there was a pit bull with something in its mouth (thank God) and some tall guy with a pony tail hovering around. What's he up to?

Is this the first sign of the credit crunch? Is Hebden Bridge going to regress into the sort of smackhead centre it was in the mid 90's?

And what about all these young people paralysed through drink (usually in the park)? What's going on and what can be done - to help them and reclaim the streets?

Isn't this more important than planning applications? Or perhaps the middle class population of Hebden Bridge actually doesn't give a ....

From Anne Handley
Sunday, 19 October 2008

I’ve also wondered what’s going on when the most vocal and eloquent sectors in our community are willing to expend so much time and energy on defeating a planning application and yet, if this forum is anything to go by, expend so little time trying to combat the real problems facing real people in our community.

Young people with nothing constructive to do, getting their kicks from alcohol and drugs, people of all ages who simply can’t afford to shop locally, and an older generation who must feel increasingly alienated from the café culture image where you can buy an organic, fair trade hot chocolate but you can’t buy electrical goods, get your shoes repaired, or buy the basic materials to do your own sewing, DIY or anything else practical.

I know that caring about development and caring about people are not mutually exclusive – you can care about lots of different aspects of the community – but there is a general impression (from various media) that Hebden Bridge is a great place to live and that we are tolerant and care about our town. But I think it’s important to remember that for a lot of people, especially the young, they hate living here and quite possibly resent the people who give the impression everything is rosy when it’s not.

From L. Esock
Tuesday, 21 October 2008

As a recent newcomer to the Hebden Bridge area I was a little shocked by the amount of young people very drunk in the park, not only this but they were also mingling with world weary older street drinkers and very gaunt drug user stereotypes. Particularly around the memorial garden!

I am also a little bit more shocked that two groups of drug dealers can be obviously selling their goods at 4pm without attracting the attention of the old bill or community support bill. Even dealers in Kings Cross in London, get swooped by the rozzas these days!

I noticed that somebody in the courier on the 17th of October had also noted his concerns. Is there an plan by law enforcement / the council to try and keep this to a minimum 'stop it'prior to escalation I wonder?

From C. Colin
Tuesday, 21 October 2008

I often thought that Hebden Bridge is guilty of believing in its own hype whilst turning a blind eye to the bits of town that don’t fit in with the image that the great and good wish to project.

The truth of the matter is that there is a definite underclass, generally living on the geographic edges of the locale, who are largely ignored by the middle class 'movers and shakers' who continue to promote HB as a groovy and tolerant place to live, which it probably is for the affluent and educated who don't venture far into town after dark.

The older residents who fall into this sociological black hole are faced with living in a town with few real shops and few people around during the day, and a growing feeling of isolation. Their younger equivalents seem to be reacting in a way that's natural for the young, ignored and alienated. They are rebelling. Unfortunately in this day and age, rebellion consists of the drugs, drink, and pit-bulls that have been talked about earlier in the thread.

From Zilla Brown
Tuesday, 21 October 2008

In my opinion, what superficial changes to Hebden that have come about have mainly been caused by the hype that seems to have originated elsewhere - TV, national press, airlines publicity etc. As this publicising of the town by the media has gathered pace so have property developers latched on and there have been more people falling for the hype who want to live here. Its only surprising that they are not more startled by the actual reality of the place when they live here.

Sure the sorrounding countryside is striking but the fact is the soul of the town itself has not changed. Its still a northern town underneath- the ordinary people who were born and work there, live on the outlying estates and have children growing up, and the older people round about, still have the same problems of coping with low incomes. They now do appear as an underclass in comparison to the "incomers" unfortunatley.

The wages for working in the shops

in town are barely above minimum level and I gather that it's not so enjoyable serving peole who think they should have preferential treatment because they have more money to spend.

The fact that such people have moved in believing all the hype talked about Hebden does not change the actual reality of the place.

From Jonathan Timbers
Tuesday, 21 October 2008

It's good that so many people feel the same way and despair about the lack of interest in this issue and poor/ marginalised people in town.

What are our politicians going to do about it? I haven't seen any joining in on this thread. Perhaps there's no votes in it for them - or the issue's too difficult.

Go on then, where are you?

From Danny Thompson
Tuesday, 21 October 2008

What do you suggest that the "middle class population of Hebden Bridge", and "the politicians" actually "do about it"?

I'm genuinely interested.

From Tom Standfield
Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Seamy? Sleazy? Hebden Bridge? Don't you know this is Happy Valley? See today's Courier article

From Andrew H
Wednesday, 22 October 2008

People aren't getting marginalised. They marginalise themselves. Hebden Bridge has a fantastic location in terms of access to major northern conurbations. Higher paid work and opportunity is out there if you really want it.

All towns and cities suffer from drug and alcohol misuse in some shape or form. Is this not just "growing up" for many young people? Surely drugs have been part of the culture since the sixties.

Undoubtably families have moved into the area who class themselves as aspirational but is this really a bad thing? They don't move here because of media hype, they are attracted by the culture and atmosphere of the area, access to the fantastic countryside, good schooling and the sheer variety of places where you can enjoy your leisure time whilst still being able to commute in a realistic timescale.

Think about the alternatives. You only have to witness the complete degredation of nearby towns like Burnley to appreciate what we have.

From Joseph S
Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Well said Andrew. I'm not sure you move somewhere because someone refers to it as being funky in an inflight magazine.

From Zilla Brown
Wednesday, 22 October 2008

The point is the hype increases and draws peoples interest to this area. This leads "aspirational people" as Andrew mentions to want to be associated with Hebden. Everyone likes a winner. But is Hebden a winner really?

The expectations and entertainments of the higher earners have little to do with more basic local needs that are clearly not being met. There are festivals etc throughout the year but they don't improve the day to day quality of life for the "non aspirational" people in terms of their daily requirements. There are more mundane matters for those who live in the Hebden area and don't commute out of town than looking forwards to the next "fix" of, for example, festival/poetry reading/bonfire/art exhibition etc. Small businesses are closing all the time.

Why is it that no money ever seems to be found for a decent youth club in Hebden, (I seem to remember the building where one was next to the Coop is now on the cards for something like an Interpretation Centre about the towns history) or a local swimming pool (which has been talked about for years)? There's nowhere to buy sewing thread or haberdashery /get your shoes mended /buy small electrical goods etc anymore. Not everyone drives.

It's all very well putting a superficial high gloss on Hebden but all is not pretty underneath.

From Jonathan Timbers
Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Danny asks what I would do about it?

Well, I have some ideas, but first I'd like to find a way of actually talking to some of the people in the park. One or two of the villains I actually know, but I think they're passed help, even if they're not all without sympathetic traits. The drunks may be passed it too (I know some of them, as well. There but for the grace of God ...)

Key issues, as it seems to me hwr, are these:

1) Getting the villains out of the park and leaving the youngsters to themselves (that means getting the police involved, sorry). We don't want serious crims and drug dealers preying on our young. And let me tell you, I ain't tackling them. Some of them're dangerous!

2) Engaging young people (including girls - too often it's only the boys people listen to because they cause most of the visible trouble)

3) More youth facilities in HB. We have a town council. We can opt to pay lots of extra precept for a single purpose - helping young people. Lets turn our pockets out - less Grand Cru Claret and more Co-op Rjoca

4) Lets sit down with youth workers, schools and churches and see what they can come up with

There's other things I'd do personally - like abolish Crossleys and make private education illegal, but that's not really on the agenda. Improving Calder High is a must, but difficult in such an educationally divided area. That leaves the issue of jobs, pay and prospects ....

The point is that we can't carry on as we are, ignoring the issue. Any other bright ideas?

From Lynne T
Thursday, 23 October 2008

Well said Zilla ( about money being provided for a decent youth club)

To me it seems a great shame that the Youth House which "belonged" to the youth of the area and was open 6 evenings a week was closed down because of lack of funding. Leaving the young people to wander the streets for entertainment.

Now I understand that money can be found for it to be re-opened as a history museum. Personally I would like to see the money invested in the youth who are our future, rather than looking back at our past.

From Inspector Chris Norbury
Thursday, 23 October 2008

I assure you as I also regularly go out on high visibility uniform foot patrol at all times of day in Hebden Bridge that Crown Street is not full of drug dealers. There is a group of around 10 adults who are known to have had drug addictions and have issues with alcohol, who on a daily basis are found in the Upper Valley at either Hebden Bridge/Todmorden or Mytholmroyd. This group have all been targeted by the local NPT in respect of enforcement/prevention and help and there has been some success with one of the group who was heavily involved in crime and living in a tent now housed, not using drugs and heading toward employment.

There has also been 7 x £50 fixed penalty tickets issued in relation to street drinking in September and a massive reduction in the number of persons drinking and acting in a anti-social manner in open spaces. High visibility foot patrols are conducted in Hebden and include the Park both during the day and afternoon and as a result the park is a much safer more attractive place to visit again.

This weekend I have organised and there will be an operation with extra resources working in both uniform and plain clothes to deal with any anti social behaviour in the Valley and in particular the parks at Hebden and Todmorden.

Crime figures are the second lowest in West Yorkshire in the Hebden Bridge only bettered by Ryburn which is nearly all rural, which again does not support the claims that the town is the Wild West!

However if the individual who has posted these concerns wishes to come to the police station and discuss them with myself this is fine. They can do so anytime and should also be encouraged to attend the ward meeting at Hebden Bridge police station, the next one being on 2nd December at 18.30 hours. Also, if they come across what they suspect as drug dealing or anti-social behaviour then phone the police at the time of the incident so officers can respond and deal accordingly.

Chris Norbury
Upper Valley NPT Inspector

From Howard T
Friday, 24 October 2008

The most significant physical change that has occurred to the park over the decades is the reduction in light. This is due to the amount of canopy cover. I realise it could be an unpopular suggestion, but the reduction of those trees would allow some more light into the place, which would allow the lower vegetation to thrive in improved sunlight and the grass to grow back. This could all start to change the look, feel and atmosphere of the place. Heck, it could even start to become a nice place again.

While we're about it, a sign could be put up, just to remind individuals that there are other people on God's great earth. It could say something like:

"For the enjoyment of all users please:
Keep dogs on leads
Clean it up!
No litter
No alcohol

Criminal Justice and People Act 2001: designated public place.
Restrictions on anti-social drinking of alcohol apply in this area.
If you continue to drink alcohol in this area when asked not to do so by a police officer you are liable on conviction to a fine of up to £500."

From Joseph S
Friday, 24 October 2008

Great response Insp Norbury. Well done for commenting & responding so clearly openly.

From William N
Friday, 24 October 2008

I notice Chris Norbury states that he and his colleagues patrol HB on foot "both during the day and afternoon". I have lived in Hebden Bridge for many years and used to be proud of the fact that it felt safe to walk around at night. Not so in the past couple of years, which have seen a noticeable increase in the number of drunk young people hanging around in groups, frequently being disruptive and intimidating. Where is the police presence in the evenings? Perhaps the local force believed the funding would be better spent on the (frankly hilarious) postcard-flyers which have recently been published telling us what a great place Calderdale is to feel safe in.

I do empathise with the local kids, really. I grew up in the suburbs of a large city and believe me, we had less to occupy us there than the kids have here. We had no youth club, no local park, no skate facilities, no beautiful hills, no arts festivals, no grafitti wall. Neither did we tear around at the age of 14 off our faces on cheap cider and ketamine. We did, however, have parents who considered it their responsibility to occupy us and make sure that we weren't running wild and drunk at 1am. We weren't a wealthy or aspirational family either and my parents didn't have endless resources available. We amused ourselves - to be honest, I'm not sure how, but we did.

I don't have the answers to this problem and if I were honest I could be a lot more confrontational and controversial in my comments. I could end up sounding like a rabid right-winger, which I'm not. But I am proper ticked off with these issues not being tackled while more and more money is spent on luring the so-called aspirationals into the area.

Jonathan has a point - money needs to be spent and it needs to come from us. If HB is such a community-minded, co-operative hotbed of caring-sharing liberalism then I am sure that those of us who live a degree or two above the poverty line could indeed cut the budget for our bourgeious luxuries and invest in our youth. We won't getting anything flashy for it, mind. No new developments, no flyers crowing about what a great place HB is to feel safe in, no articles in fancy broadsheets extolling the virtues of ethical, independent, fairtrade coffee boutiques. It may, however, occupy and educate our young people and reassure those members of our community who have lived here for years that they matter.

From Ron Taylor
Friday, 24 October 2008

Whenever I go across the Channel I am always impressed by the facilities for sport in almost any town in France (in other European countries,too). Just about anywhere the size of Hebden Bridge or even smaller boasts a municipal stadium with running track, football/ rugby pitch or pitches, tennis and basketball courts. In the UK we seem to have no political will to build such things unless it is to do with some major event when the will and money suddenly become available. I know good sports facilities won't rid us of all the problems we face, but they can surely help.

From Kate Dakers
Monday, 27 October 2008

I agree with Ron's sentiments and have been working on getting a youth boxing club off the ground for 3 months now. The difficulties comes down to funding and all the red tape it involves is so frustrating. In order to apply for govt funding you are required to become either a not-for-profit, charity or similar organisation. This involves having a number of people to sit on the board who care enough about our youth to give up some time and energy to make it work...perhaps some of you who've posted here are those people?

I have the skills, qualifications and desire to offer an alternative to drinking in the park and hanging out on the streets but it cannot be achieved by one person.

I'm fully aware that some of you see boxing as a violent sport but we're not talking Saturday Night Fight Club here - this is a recreational, safe, alternative that teaches discipline, respect for self and others and improves self confidence. I deliver a programme created and certified by the Amateur Boxing Association, written specifically for children and young people and the activities and training are centred around social inclusion, developing skills and improving fitness.

Holding one hour sessions in a gym or community centre will not crack it as there needs to be somewhere that these guys can actually hang out afterwards, somewhere they feel they are welcome all the time. A place that hosts adults too, who are responsible, approachable and good role models. People they can talk to and dont feel judged by.

Boxing has proved successful for many years, all over the world in tackling some of the issues you mention in this discussion and I have no doubt it would do the same here in Hebden Bridge. So if anyone has any ideas for premises, funding or is interested enough to get involved and make it happen then email me or post here and I will be in touch.

From Joanna Beacroft-Mitchell
Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Kate (and anyone else who's interested) the grants process for Hebden Royd Town Council was recently overhauled primarily because of the concerns voiced on this thread - we were aware that a lot of our funding seemed to be going to arts and festival based projects and that there were clearly other issues that the grants could and should be tackling - please contact the town clerk for an application pack.

As for the rest of the thread I couldn't agree more that funding is an issue. Hebden Royd do have a grants budget - for small schemes but our pockets are not bottomless and I would like to see offers of partnership with other local organisations - grant funding only goes so far, the rest has to come from public support in the form of volunteering (the most important contribution - young people need to see their adult role models contributing to the community - otherwise why would they?) and personal financial support from individuals - the solution is in our own hands.

From Cllr Lesley Jones
Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Can I take this opportunity to re-iterate Inspector Norbury's invitation for all interested and/or concerned members of the community to come along to the regular Ward meetings held in the Police Station?

These meetings are very informal and are a real opportunity to discuss with local officers any matters of interest and/or concern. You will also be able to hear about and discuss initiatives that are being carried out or planned in our area in order to help make our community a better, safer place for everyone.

The next meeting will be held on the 2nd December at 18:30 and everyone is very welcome. Meetings take place around every 6 weeks and are advertised locally and via the WY Police Neighbourhood Policing website.

From Joanne M
Thursday, 30 October 2008

Thank you. I did post a piece about six months ago pointing out how bad Hebden had become with just the same problems as yourself. I was basically shouted down by a certain few and told to go back and read my Mail newspaper!! I did not comment anymore as it seems there are a few know-it-alls in Hebden who are now being proved very wrong.

Hebden Bridge is a very scary place on an evening. Drug users and pushers, drunken youths, vandals. I have even witnessed a teenage couple having sex in a doorway just off Crown street. I do not venture into Hebden anymore. As a woman in her thirties I do not feel safe and find it interesting that my 17 year old daughter and 14 year old son feel the same.

From Janice S
Sunday, 2 November 2008

I live in HB town centre and am not particularly worried about being out and about on weekend evenings (but I'm a middle-aged woman and therefore no threat or challenge to the groups of drunks). However, a friend of mine was beaten up a few months ago by a bunch of drunken louts, presumably because his skin was the wrong colour. He didn't want to report it (although he knew the police would take it seriously) but what sickened me when he told me about it was that no-one did anything to help, no-one even called the police - they just left the louts to it. Luckily he wasn't seriously hurt.

Surely, if we see wrong stuff going on, the least we can do is report it, give car registration plates, descriptions of the people involved, etc. I've seen police officers patrolling HB, but they can't be everywhere at once.

As Joanne M pointed out, young people themselves don't feel safe coming into the town centre in the evening.

From Phil Hegarty
Monday, 3 November 2008

I have to say, I find many of these comments quite worrying. At present I'm planning to return to the town, after a six year absence in foreign climes, with my wife and son. After reading complaints of pit-bulls, drug addicts and racist attacks, however, I'm now thinking twice.

Obviously it's "cool" that HB is so "officially cool", and it's a fact I've shown off about whenever I can find people patient enough to listen. But, as somebody already mentioned, with all the energy that's gone into securing HB's reputation, can not a little of that energy be redirected into making HB a safer/safer feeling place to live? I feel a little hypocritical saying this, not being a resident at this precise moment, but it just feels like some people are trying to build a house without foundations.

That being said, I did find Inspector Norbury's comments somewhat reassuring and I hope he is well assisted by the public in the future.

From Tim B
Monday, 3 November 2008

Hey Phil, don't worry, it's certainly no worse than it was six years ago!

From Paul D
Wednesday, 5 November 2008

If we go on the evidence, as opposed to our subjective perceptions, Hebden Bridge is a very safe place to live. We have (relatively) low crime rates and excellent police support, including community resources. But the fear of crime and direct experience of it cannot be dismissed so lightly, however, failure to report an offence, or even a personal attack, simply undermines wider community safety. For example, young people who assault others (on the basis of race or otherwise) will hardly stop doing it if nobody ever holds them to account. Those breaking the law need to be caught. The police need the support of the whole community and we should offer it.

And before we forget, the 'villains' on the park or elsewhere, they live here too. Most are young men who simply got a little lost on life's journey - some are my friends - they went to Central and Riverside, Mytholm or Colden and Calder High, like our kids do, did, or will. The kids in the sqaure will be known to most of us, or could be if we tried a bit harder, possibly they're our own children, those of friends, or attending school with our own. It's a small town, we could all be a bit more friendly.

So when Jonathan (defender of criminal damage if it's done in the name of art) refers to the 'seamy' side of town, I don't know if this isn't just some attempt to locate the problem on some 'other' (not me, or us - but 'them'), or if it's a strategy to avoid being part of the solution. If there is a 'problem' then it's one we can deal with as a community, with the support of the police and with the aim being to offer postive and pro-social alternatives to those at risk of falling prey to behaviours that pose a risk to themselves and/or others. We could start on our own lives, by modelling pro-social behaviour, drinking less, avoiding drug use, driving within the speed limits, etc. Before we set to work on others, perhaps need to clean up our own act. The town isn't seamy at all, it just needs the grown ups who need to be a little more grown up.

And we don't have 'smackheads', we have disillusioned and disaffected men (many over 40 who will die before 50) who opt into alcohol and methdone and out of society. We don't have feral youth running the streets, just bored kids with too much time and money. All this is on a small scale and despite the very real negative impacts, it could be sorted out within 12 months if Calderdale could avert it's loving gaze away from HX1 and extended it's interests to the needs of young people in HX7. We can fix it, but we need a little help is my view.