Neighbours’ street scheme to promote community spirit

Neighbours on the Pond Park estate in Chesham are being invited to band together street by street in a scheme to combat loneliness, isolation and develop a community where residents look out for one another.

The scheme, spearheaded by Buckinghamshire County Council, aims to recruit people in every road and provide them with resources and free workshops to heighten awareness of issues such as doorstep crime, scams, domestic abuse and nutrition, to increase the wellbeing and safety of the community.

The Pond Park Street Association launches at Hivings Free Church, in Upper Belmont Road, between 3pm and 7pm next Wednesday (29 November), where residents can collect information and sign up to be Street Members.

Already there’s an enthusiastic response from community leaders and shopkeepers on the estate, says local County Councillor Mark Shaw.

“We have several groups that are doing a brilliant job in building community spirit,” said Mark. “Forming a Street Association will help build on this great work, and draw in people who aren’t as connected as we’d like.”

Chandra Saujani, who runs convenience shops in Greenway, and is championing the Street Association, said: “I’m in full support of establishing the Street Association, and I’ll do all I can to encourage our residents to get involved, to strengthen our sense of community.”

Street AssociationProject Leader Helen Cavill said research showed Pond Park had lower than average healthy eating figures, higher than average breast cancer and heart disease rates, and that 24% of children were living in families on benefits – 4% above the national average.

And while overall crime figures were 30% below the national average, Pond Park has become a hotspot for doorstep criminals and mail, phone and email scams, with 18 reported incidents in the past two years among its 5,000 residents. That figure could be much higher, say Trading Standards, as only 10 per cent of scams are ever reported.

Helen said: “We’d like Street Members to work with their neighbours, building on a sense of neighbourliness, to ensure everyone in the community feels safe, valued and cared for.”

The first workshop, on Tuesday 5 December, from 2pm to 3.30pm, will help residents protect themselves and their neighbours against targeted fraud – phone and mail scams, and doorstep criminals.

The County Council piloted the Street Association idea in Hughenden parish, another doorstep crime hotspot. Since its launch earlier this year, the scheme has grown in eight villages, with 81 Street Members covering 56 roads, and more than 30 attending training workshops.

A second Street Association was started on Aylesbury’s Quarrendon estate in September.

Noel Brown, Cabinet Member for Community Engagement and Public Health, said: “I’m really encouraged by the way the residents in Hughenden have pulled together and worked so well to promote safety and wellbeing among their neighbours.

“Now there’s a great opportunity for Pond Park residents to band together to promote a sense of community and belonging. I want to encourage their community spirit of goodwill to make sure we hold on to a tradition of neighbourliness, and make this a safe place for our children and families.”