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Police ask residents for help on problem estate; NOTHING TO DO FOR KIDS IS PART OF PROBLEM, SAY LOCALS.

Byline: SOPHIE DOUGHTY Crime reporter

IT was an estate purpose-built for growing families in the 1970s and offered hope for those who moved there.

But when decorator John Hands was stabbed with a broken bottle in broad daylight, he saw the best and worst of the people in Newbiggin Hall.

As blood poured from the open wound left by Nicola Mooney last September, staff and customers at Fairmans Pharmacy came to the 54-year-old's aid and helped save his life.

But the fact that he could become the victim of such a violent attack outside his local shops at 10am has left John fearful of leaving his home.

Mooney, of Rose Terrace, Cowgate, is awaiting sentence after admitting assault occasioning grievous bodily harm for the wine bottle attack, which happened at the rundown and dilapidated Newbiggin Hall Shopping Centre, which is now due to be demolished and replaced with new shops.

But people living on the North Newcastle estate say their problems are far from over.

Families say they regularly witness drugs being sold openly in front if them and that groups of teenagers congregate at night because there is nothing else for them to do.

Today, police are urging the community to let them know what is going on on the estate so they can make a plan to address their concerns. And residents have told The Chronicle about what life is really like on Newbiggin Hall.

Mum-of-two Mandy Howe said: "Everywhere is just totally rundown. Newbiggin Hall is just full of good people, but it's making us seem like scumbags."

Drug use and dealing is no longer a hidden crime on Newbiggin Hall, say locals.

And John Bailey said he wishes police would catch people in the act. The 25-year-old said: "It's just getting worse. The crime is getting worse. It's mainly drugs and antisocial behaviour.

"I see it all the time, but I'm not one to go to the police. If they were out there they would see it for themselves."

And a 22-year-old care assistant, who asked not to be named, agreed.

"People says it's rough but it's not that bad. I have been here six years. It is full of drug dealers. Everywhere you go you see people selling drugs in front of you," she said.

"Even when I'm walking the dog people will do it in front of me.

These people think they can get away with it.

"Five years ago it was worse though. People used to fight all the time, but now it's calmer."

Parents fear their children are getting a bad reputation for hanging around the estate's streets at night.

But they say this is because there is nothing else for them to do.

Mum-of-four, Joanne Riley, 40, explained: "The kids have got nothing to do so they just end up hanging around the streets.

"Then they get into trouble and kids from other estates come in. I have got two teenagers and two younger kids, and it does make us worry about the younger ones growing up here."

And Mandy, 37, said local teenagers are being perceived as troublemakers for simply getting out of the house.

"There's just nowt here. They have taken everything away from us and not replaced it," she said.

"There's nothing for the kids to do, that's why there's so much antisocial behaviour. They just hang around and get accused of being in gangs because of it.

"The police target the kids that are out there, but what are they supposed to do? Stay in their bedrooms?" Jack Knight grew up in Newbiggin Hall with his mum Julie Knight, 47.

The 18-year-old said the estate is not as bad as people make out, as long as you do not get involved with the wrong crowds.

"There's not a lot to do but you just have to make stuff to do," he said.

"It just depends on how you react towards people. Some of the other teenagers have had rough upbringings."

So have things changed that much? Residents said Newbiggin Hall used to be a completely different place.

John said: "I have lived here all my life - my mam says in the '70s you could leave your door unlocked.

"It was a proper community and you could just walk into each other's houses. It was a nice estate, but it's gone downhill now. They have moved lots of radgies over here.

"My mam gets sad about it."

And Gillian Blackham believes the lack of amenities has led to the breakdown in community spirit.

The 55-year-old said: "We have got no community centre, no shops, no library and no pub. We don't feel safe at all now.

"There's a lack of community now. It's just a big estate with nothing there. They have taken all the pubs and the bingo away.

"It's the worst it's ever been. It makes me want to go. I hate it now.

"I still like all the people I just hate what the place has become.

"You walk past some of the flats and you can smell the drugs."

Laura Smith grew up on the estate. Although she recently moved away, she still returns regularly to visit friends.

And the 36-year-old says she has seen a real difference over recent years.

"Growing up here it was great, but it's completely changed now, it's totally run down" she said.

"The shops were once really popular and busy." Locals say the rundown shopping centre is harming the image of the estate.

Norma Mason, 73, said: "Everyone is lovely. Where we live it's all pensioners and we all look out for each other, but the shops are rough and expensive.

"We moved here last May from Benwell and it's a lot nicer - it's horrible down there." And Bunty Grewal, who has run Bunty's Chip Stop for 27 years, says the shopping centre is now like a ghost town.

The 50-year-old said: "It's just really quiet now. There's nobody around. You do get the odd kid hanging around, but most of our customers are people from the estate and they are nice people."

And Ken Smith, 74, added: "It's a right eyesore. They have built a lot of new bungalows, but it's still a bit rough from what I can gather.

"But I do feel safe walking around here in daylight.

Sgt Ashley Palmer, of the Newcastle North Neighbourhood Policing Team at Northumbria Police, said officers were aware of the problems on the estate, but said police need the public to help by reporting what they see.

She said: "We know that antisocial behaviour can have a huge impact on residents and are aware about concerns in the East Thorpe area of Newbiggin Hall.

"We have spoken to residents on our patrols who have provided us with second-hand information about young people gathering in large groups, drinking and taking drugs.

"It can be difficult for us to send officers to every single report of anti-social behaviour due to the demand for services but we still need people to report things to us either on the phone or through our website."


Mandy Howe

Ken Smith

Laura Smith

Bunty Grewal

Jack Knight

Julie Knight

Norma Mason

Joanne Riley
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 2, 2019
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