Could development plans for Northampton help solve poverty problems in deprived areas?

Blackthorn community centre - pics of Growing together team'A picture of Peter Strachan, who is leading the project to draw up a neighbourhood plan for the Lumbertubs area.'L- R Andrea McAuliffe, Kathryn White, Peter Strachan, Kristina Edwards, Chloe Dennis-Green and Janice Duffy NNL-150306-134657009
Blackthorn community centre - pics of Growing together team'A picture of Peter Strachan, who is leading the project to draw up a neighbourhood plan for the Lumbertubs area.'L- R Andrea McAuliffe, Kathryn White, Peter Strachan, Kristina Edwards, Chloe Dennis-Green and Janice Duffy NNL-150306-134657009
  • More than a third of children in Lumbertubs ward live in poverty, according to national statistics
  • Development plans aim to reduce crime and make areas more ‘lively’
  • Members of the public are invited to consultation meetings over neighbourhood plans starting this month

Historic planning conditions and a chronic lack of funding may have hampered the most deprived areas in Northampton over the years – but could new neighbourhood plans be the answer to turning the tide of poverty?

Last week the Chronicle & Echo revealed how the former Lumbertubs ward – the area comprising the Blackthorn, Goldings, Lings Lumbertubs and Overstone Lodge estates – were being left adrift, with child poverty affecting 37 per cent of its population.

Outdated designs create a sense of undesirability, which has left the area a bit detached and marginalised from what’s going on elsewhere in the town

Peter Strachan

But by the end of the year its residents will be asked to vote in a referendum on whether to adopt a new neighbourhood plan for the area, which aims to convert derelict areas, provide more affordable housing and make the area ‘livelier’.

The plan, being drawn up by the National Lottery funded Growing Together organisation and steered by a forum of around 30 Lumbertubs residents, aims to provide a new blueprint for what is built, and where, in the estates.

“We want to ensure that new housing developments in the area are to the best designed and most up-to-date standards,” said chair of the forum, Andrea McAuliffe.

“We want to see new opportunities for employment, shopping and community activities for young and old.”

The plan, which will need to be adopted by Northampton Borough Council, would offer protected status to 11 green areas in Lumbertubs, including Foxcovert Wood and the green space by Blackthorn Community Centre.

But unlike many rural neighbourhood plans it proposes to go much further than that. Peter Strachan, who has spent around 32 hours speaking to residents around Lumbertubs in drawing up the policies in the document, said: “During the consultation many people said that one of the best parts of the estates is the green spaces.

“The second thing is about making the area feel more safe and secure. The crime levels are vastly improved in the area, but there is a real issue around the perceived vulnerability of the estates.”

Many of the homes in Lumbertubs were built to the 1929 ‘Radburn’ standard, with the rear gardens of homes facing the street and the fronts of homes facing each other over common land. But with some experts believing the old fashioned form of urban design has lead to the encouragement of crime in the area, the neighbourhood plan proposes that new buildings are built to a new quality standard.

“The Radburn design is sorely outdated,” Mr Strachan said.

“What that has done in turn is create a sense of undesirability, which has left the area a bit detached and marginalised from what’s going on elsewhere in the town.”

And with many feeling the Lumbertubs area lacks activities for younger people, the plan will ask the borough council to support applications for new youth, play or community leisure facilities as well as protecting shopping centres and improving cycle networks. The entire scheme relies on it winning the public vote in a referendum later in the year, but Mr Strachan is confident of its success.

“This process has been unprecedented in many ways,” he said. “People simply haven’t been asked what they want to see built here in the future before. We are confident that by the end of it, we will have a plan that reflects how the people here feel.”

Public meetings will allow you to have an input in Lumbertubs plan

The neighbourhood plan for Blackthorn, Goldings, Lings, Lumbertubs and Overstone Lodge is currently in the consultation phase and residents in the area will have a chance to have their say on the plans at upcoming public events.

You will be able to drop into the Blackthorn Community Centre between 6.30pm and 8pm on Wednesday, June 17; at Lings Primary School between 6.30pm and 8pm on Wednesday, June 18 or at Lumbertubs Primary School, between 6.30pm and 8pm on Wednesday, June 24.

There will also be an exhibition of the draft neighbourhood plan at Weston Favell Shopping Centre on Friday, June 19, between 10am and 6pm.

This week more than 6,000 flyers are being distributed to homes around the Lumbertubs area asking for opinions on the neighbourhood plan.

Mr Strachan, said: “If people have something to say but don’t respond to the questionnaire, or don’t come along to the public meetings, then their ideas won’t make it into the plan, it’s that simple.

This could have a massive effect on the next 15 years.

“It effectively writes the rulebook for the borough council in terms of the planning applications it needs to accept.”