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Help us spend Pounds 15m; NEWS FOCUS: ON A SURPRISINGLY PLEASANT DILEMMA FACING ONE OF CITY'S MOST DEPRIVED AREAS.

Coping with difficult problems is nothing new for the people who face a daily struggle for survival on some of Coventry's most deprived streets.

But the latest poser facing the Foleshill community is of a surprisingly pleasant nature.

Residents are being given a unique opportunity to spend Pounds 15 million.

The money, from the government's single regeneration budget and the European Union, will be used to combat crime and also provide better housing, jobs, training, community facilities and environmental improvements.

One of the largest cash handouts ever made anywhere in the country, it must be spent over the next five years.

For somewhere like Foleshill sudden access to such a huge fund is on a par with winning the lottery.

By any social or economic indicator the area is in a deprivation league of its own.

With massive unemployment, shoddy housing and rampant crime it ranks as one of the 40 poorest communities anywhere in the country.

The Prince of Wales drew attention to problems facing Foleshill last year when he urged captains of industry to join his Business in the Community organisation in a crusade to create jobs and tackle poverty.

Now help is on the way thanks to Pounds 15 million and the efforts of a partnership involving Business in the Community, council leaders, the health authority and government officials.

The big question is, how can the money best be spent?

In order to discover the answer, the Foleshill Regeneration Board is about to engage in a huge public consultation project.

Every person living in Foleshill will be sent a leaflet inviting them to put their point of view.

The massive listening exercise has been named the Blue Ribbon Initiative, after the 35ft sculpture which will be unveiled at the corner of Foleshill Road and Phoenix Way tomorrow.

The work of art, mirroring the area's traditional textile industry, has been designed to make a bold statement about regeneration and hope for the future.

Demetrious Panton, Foleshill Area Co-ordinator, urged anyone with a view on how the money should be spent to contact him.

``People can ring me. I will raise their suggestions at the action groups or suggest that they come along themselves.

"It is really important that if people have ideas they should let me know.''

Two of the city's best known businessmen - Jaguar chief executive Nick Scheele and Sky Blues chairman Bryan Richardson - are backing the Foleshill revival through their membership of Business in the Community.

Mr Richardson wants the maximum public participation.

``Everyone now has a chance to shape the future of the area in which they live or work," he said. "Don't let it slip. Tell them what you think.''

Eight action groups consisting of local people are already drawing up proposals under the leadership of the Regeneration Board.

Several projects are already underway, but the groups need more practical ideas from local people.

Stuart Parker, a resident who chairs the crime action group, said: ``We do get people coming along but it is normally because they have a problem and when it is fixed they don't come again.

"We would like their continued involvement.''

Coventry city councillor Peter Lacy, who chairs the Regeneration Board, believes that the decision by Coventry City Football Club to build a new super-stadium and shopping centre on the former Foleshill gas works will bring tremendous benefits to the area.

``This is a big opportunity. A lot of people are showing great faith in Foleshill at the moment and there is considerable money for regeneration. These are very exciting times for everyone.

``Local residents and groups know the area better than anyone and it is essential that they have their say.

"The Blue Ribbon Initiative gives them the opportunity to really make a difference to their own community.''

Cameras help clean up crime on the streets

Regeneration cash pouring into Foleshill has already gone a long way towards making inner city streets a safer place to live and work.

Crime levels have plummeted since four closed-circuit security cameras were installed last May. The council's area co-ordination team has plans to provide a further six cameras by the end of this year.

Cameras currently in place target the junction of Foleshill Road and Station Street West, Queen Mary's Road, and Edgwick Park.

When the project is complete, all of the Foleshill Road from Eagle Street to the North-south Road roundabout will be covered by spy in the sky security.

The Foleshill Business Association, which campaigned for the cameras, is delighted.

Spokesman Davindar Mankoo said reported crime had fallen by up to 30 per cent in recent months.

He added: ``Things had been getting very bad. There was drug dealing in the park and we even had a gang operating a protection racket, smashing windows if shopkeepers refused to pay up.

``There was a serious problem with bag snatching and car theft. It was becoming so bad that pensioners were afraid to go outside in case they were mugged.

``The police tell us that a number of prosecutions are pending since the cameras went up.

"Business in Foleshill shops is still slow, but at least the crime has stopped.''

How the consultation works:

Eight action groups with a membership from the local community are already considering a variety of issues. They will report to the Foleshill Regeneration Board.

The topics covered by the groups include health, crime, youth issues, economic regeneration, housing, the environment, children's issues and information.

Ideas already being discussed include proposals for a leisure centre, the development of safer routes to school, traffic calming and drug prevention initiatives.

How YOU can get involved:

If you have an idea about the way Pounds 15 million should be spent, phone Foleshill area co-ordinator Demetrious Panton on 688893. Or write to him at Enterprise House, Foleshill Enterprise Park, Courtaulds Way. CV6 5NX.

Factfile:

More than a third of all households have income levels below Pounds 6,000 a year.

A quarter of all houses are unfit to live in or need major repairs.

Foleshill has one of the worst crime records in Coventry.

Unemployment is more than twice the city average.

Pupil exclusions from school are double the rate for the rest of the city.

A third of children live in overcrowded accommodation.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Coventry Newpapers
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Dale, Paul
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Feb 25, 1999
Words:1042
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