Drug House Closure, Meir ““ A Tale of Stoke-on-Trent Community Spirit

Broadway is a leafy part of the Meir Park & Sandon ward, bordered by Longton High and its grounds, the A50, and the shops on Weston Road.

It is comprised largely of privately owned terraced and semi detached houses, Broadway has a very active Residents Association and long time residents will tell you how not so many years ago, properties in this area were put up for sale and sold within the week, so desirable an area was it.

However in recent months, an issue of growing concern has been festering away in Broadway ““ and today saw it finally burst. Just after 10am this morning, District Judge Taylor granted permission for Staffordshire Police to close a property on Broadway Place for two months, following a catalogue of statements from local residents and others about activities at the property since the beginning of the year.

From the front door of the property, it is less than 20metres to the entrance to Longton High, and some of those who came foward to provide the evidence for the closure included teachers and others connected with the school. The sale and use of Class A drugs from the house caused massive concern for everyone in the locality ““ characterised by multiple visits, day and night, to the property, leading to arguments and shouting at all hours, causing great distress to neighbours and other residents.

The district judge commented that there was “Ëœoverwhelming evidence’ that the activities taking place at the property caused disruption and distress to local residents and the school, and also commended local residents for standing up to this serious nuisance in their neighbourhood. He said he hoped that this would be a clear example to others elsewhere in the City that there is hope for their community to be protected against such behaviour.

The court order was unopposed and hours later the house had been secured, with a number of large posters, giving details of the order, on display. Houses in the area were also leafleted to inform them of what had happened. When I visited the property this afternoon, there was an air of calm around the area, with a steady stream of local residents coming to see if what they’d all been hoping for had finally happened. Several residents I talked to spoke of their relief, explaining that they’d just had enough in the end and were more than happy to help the police with evidence to return their neighbourhood to how it had been.

As a local councillor, today has been full of ups and downs ““ to listen to the evidence behind the closure order, the day to day events residents and others lived through, was humbling, however to hear what that same community did, working with the police to turn that situation around, was truly fantastic, and I have nothing but unstinting respect for those whose statements contributed to gaining the order, and for our local police ““ led by Insp Sharrard-Williams – in achieving such a good result for the community. Local councillors’ small part in all this was supporting the Residents Association and providing money for securing the premises, something we were all more than happy to do.

Last night, the house in Broadway Place remained dark and empty, and hopefully residents will have their first night of decent sleep in quite some time, while the message goes out strongly into the local community that drug dealing and anti social behaviour are not acceptable here anymore.

EDL & UAF Demo & Counter Demo In Stoke-on-Trent Part 4: The Clean Up

After Operation Chime scaled down as demonstrators left Hanley Operation Clean Up began.

Council workers moved in to Hanley after the police had re opened roads and moved most of the demonstrators back to their trains.

A team of 15 council workers worked in to the night in to Sunday morning to clean the areas from the Town Hall through to Wetherspoons up to remove any debris and rubbish left by the demonstrators so that Sunday morning shoppers would not be greeted by discarded banners and posters.

EDL & UAF Demo & Counter Demo In Stoke-on-Trent Part 3: The Aftermath

Stoke-on-Trent witnessed violent skirmishes between the English Defence League [EDL]and the Police on Saturday, as the town centre of Hanley was brought to a halt.

The Aftermath:

The UAF and NorSCARF demonstrators arrived at their rally point, sang some songs, chanted some anti-fascist chants, clapped their speakers and headed off out of town. Watch the video below which shows them at their loudest, well that is until the artists and speakers used the PA system.

In the ‘During’ article, you can clearly see that the Police were kept very busy and faced some considerable provocation from factions of the EDL supporters.

We had gone with a completely open mind. The Police intelligence was indicating that the EDL organisers had complied with everything that the Police had asked for. The Police had stated that as long as the EDL stuck to the terms of the Memo of Understanding, they could expect the Police to facilitate a peaceful protest and a considerate approach by the Police Officers on the ground.

The Police were brilliant. They were courageous and steadfast in the face of provocation and some considerable violence directed at them. We witnessed many examples of officers from all the forces present extend warmth and good nature.

The Police achieved their pre-operation goals, they were approachable, impartial and when required, they used the minimum of force.

When the Police finally bused the EDL out of the town centre, it was clear that there would be a heck of a clean up operation required, which would come at a cost.

The area from Wetherspoons to opposite Argos was strewn with debris, bottles, cans, lighters, coins, bricks, wood that had been stripped from advertising hoardings and there was even a kerb stone dug out and hurled. There was extensive damage to some Police vehicles.

It would be unfair to report that all the EDL supporters were out for trouble. There were the kind of supporters who, like Paul from Durham just wanted to make their point.

It was clear however that there was a large number of EDL supporters who were waiting, watching and encouraging trouble to kick off.

Add to that a number of local youths who were standing on the periphery of the crowd anticipating bother.

 

The EDL need to rid their organisation of those who are using their protests as a vehicle to start violence. They have announced a list of other cities they wish to demonstrate in. They may well find that it won’t be as easy next time around.

At the post operation Police briefing, Superintendent Dave Mellor rightly praised his officers on the ground and those who were involved in the planning and Command of the operation. He also praised the work of the Neighbourhood Policing Units around the six towns of Stoke-on-Trent.

A Senior journalist put it to Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Chief Executive, John Van de Laarschott, that the City’s reputation had been damaged. To me. this was an outrageous suggestion. There were demonstrators from the North, South, East and West of the country.

Stoke-on-Trent had no choice in whether the EDL or UAF demonstrated in our city.

Stoke-on-Trent people just did their best to get on with going about their normal days activities. They don’t deserve the accusation that our great city’s reputation has been damaged.

We have two post demonstration interviews for you to watch. The first is with Superintendent Dave Mellor and the second with Brian Ward the Deputy Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council. They give us their observations on the day’s events.

The image I’ve uploaded shows how the good folk in this city just carried on regardless. The pictures was taken by Mike Rawlins. He took some amazing pictures which tell the tale of the day without the need of words.

These articles are a collaboration of the work of Mike Rawlins, Tideswellman and Tony Walley.

EDL & UAF Demo & Counter Demo In Stoke-on-Trent Part 1: Before

Stoke-on-Trent witnessed violent skirmishes between the English Defence League [EDL]and the Police today as the town centre of Hanley was brought to a halt.

There were 15 arrests, the vast majority EDL supporters. The Police said that they were not aware of any arrests among the supporters of the counter demonstration by the UAF and NorScarf.

Four Police officers were injured, 2 received hospital treatment and 2 were able to resume their duties after treatment at the scene.

Before:

The day started in a positive manner. The Police Command briefed 600 officers deployed on ‘Operation Chime’. The main aim of the operation was to facilitate the protesters lawful right to demonstrate. Officers were required to Police both sides of the divide and to utilise the Neighbourhood Police Units around the City to ensure that the people of Stoke-on-Trent could go about their business as normal as possible.

The Police were committed to supporting businesses so that they could enjoy a normal Saturday trading day.

The Police had said that they had managed to get the EDL leadership to sign a Memo of Understanding which informed them of the sort of Policing they could expect should the EDL conduct themselves in a reasonable manner.

Police officers were encouraged to interact with both the EDL and UAF and their tactics were based on being approachable, impartial and if required, to use  minimal force.

The Police were then deployed to go about their duties.

We have some video footage that shows the officers attending their Operational Briefing and them readying for deployment.

We then rendezvoused with a large number of EDL supporters at Keele services.

We had arranged to interview one of the EDL Leaders named ‘Tommy’ – unfortunately he was unable to keep the appointment but promised to give us an interview in Hanley town centre.

However we did manage to interview an EDL supporter fro Durham named Paul and you can listen to this audio interview below.

We also have a video interview [watch it below] with Brian Ward the Deputy Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, which was filmed just as the EDL demonstration was turning ugly.