Harrow Road residents fear end of neighbourhood centre

New social enterprise to replace community body after council funding is cut

At the turn of the century, Harrow Road had become better known for crime and poverty than for possessing a healthy, thriving community.

But 11 years later, and seven years since the creation of the Harrow Road Neighbourhood Partnership (HRNP) in 2004, the area has received a new lease of life.

Vast improvements have been seen in the landscape and local economy with resident surveys reporting improvements in the look and feel of the area.

However, a new threat is on the horizon with the HRNP forced to drastically reduce its work from the start of April – and effectively cease to exist in its current form – after its funding from Westminster Council was removed.

With residents fearing the HRNP’s demise will see Harrow Road slip back into its old ways, its manager Julie Bundy is eager to highlight the creation of a new body which has been set up to try to build on recent successes.

Westminster Artisans, which Ms Bundy is director of, will be established as a new social enterprise to take over the running of Maida Hill Place – the area that consists of Maida Hill Market and its adjacent buildings.

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“Before the HRNP we had long grappled with the overwhelming issues of crime and anti-social behaviour at the Prince of Wales junction which blighted people’s life,” she said.

“It used to feel very bleak living in the Harrow Road area.

“It’s fantastic to think that as a result of having worked on residents’ priorities – which were crime, community safety and working with the environment – the area has really improved.

“No one is saying we are out of the woods but the trend is showing that results have been really positive.

“The reason we are focusing so much on Maida Hill Place is we can’t give up on what we are doing, particularly with economic development. Residents have been very concerned and what we don’t want to do is turn our back.”

Results from the recent HRNP exit survey show more than 80 per cent of respondents feel the area has improved since the creation of the HRNP – up from 50 per cent in 2007.

One resident who responded to the survey said: “The HRNP gave exposure to the ordinary person of the area, to have a voice in discussion groups, also lots of input to health, crime, and to revitalise the area. The situation we had before was more drunkenness and begging in the area. But, over the years this is now eroded.

“My fear is that all the good work will be undone when the partnership comes to an end.”

HRNP neighbourhood officer Kierra Box said: “People have felt that we have made a big difference to their lives. We have managed to dispel the feeling of powerlessness we encountered in Harrow Road before we started.

“There’s a lot of fear about how people will receive support, get their advice or organise community action from now on.

“Services will stop, the advice will stop and the support to help residents will stop and that’s sad.”

The HRNP Streetreps residents’ newsletter will continue to be distributed to 2,500 people.