A range of organisations have joined together to discuss ways to tackle issues of homelessness and anti-social behaviour in Chesterfield town centre.
The Town Centre Summit, called by Derbyshire’s PCC, Hardyal Dhindsa, met for the first time on Friday (14 July).
The meeting saw representatives from Chesterfield Borough Council, Derbyshire County Council, Derbyshire Police, Derbyshire Probation Trust, health agencies, the voluntary and community sector, East Midlands Chamber and Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins unite to find sustainable solutions to a range of issues.
This proactive approach follows reports of anti-social behaviour around bus shelters in New Beetwell Street and key town centre sites, including the Crooked Spire church, related to alcohol or drug taking, as well as periods where the number of people rough sleeping on the streets has increased.
The group agreed to work together to address the behavioural problems but was also keen to get to the root causes of the issues and help to support people to get themselves out of the situation. The group will focus on:
• Enforcement – looking at what powers can be used to control problems of anti-social behaviour often related to drug or alcohol use
• Treatment and support – to focus on providing longer term solutions to enable the people concerned to receive mental health, alcohol or drug treatment as well as finding long term housing solutions
• Welfare policy – focusing on asking the Government to reconsider some of the changes to welfare reforms that are contributing to the issue.
Hardyal Dhindsa, Derbyshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “I was pleased to see such a good and positive attendance and would like to thank everyone who joined us.
“Everyone who came to the meeting had the best interests of the residents, business and visitors to Chesterfield at their heart and that is a good starting place.
“A lot of good suggestions were made and we have set up smaller groups to look at the issues identified and then provide practical solutions to them.”
Councillor Tricia Gilby, leader of Chesterfield Borough Council, said: “I felt it was a very productive meeting and a good first step towards dealing with the issue but everyone around the table recognised that success will be judged by actions and not words.
“There are no simple answers to the issues because there are multiple causes and so many different agencies have a part to play in providing the answers.
“What came across was a real determination to resolve those issues for the benefit of everyone in Chesterfield.”
At the meeting the agencies involved agreed to share information better so that opportunities to link up activities are not missed.
Jacqui Willis, chief executive of NDVA, which works to support health and social care related voluntary organisations working in Derbyshire, said: “We are pleased that the authorities are working together with the local community and voluntary sector to tackle these issues.
“The voluntary sector has a key role to play in providing long term solutions to the problems that individuals are facing and by closer working the impact of that work can be enhanced.”
Andy Watterson, business crime manager at East Midlands Chamber said: “There are some great schemes happening in Chesterfield like the Northern Gateway and it is important that the issues we have seen don’t impact on the success of the economic focus of these schemes.
“Chesterfield is not alone in having problems like this but it is important that we tackle them so that they don’t discourage people coming to visit, go shopping and do business here.”
At the meeting it was agreed that the wider issue of welfare reforms that are contributing to the causes of many of the issues that have been seen in Chesterfield would be raised in Parliament by MP Toby Perkins.
He said: “To find effective solutions we need to look at the root causes and the experience in Chesterfield has been that these issues have been exacerbated by welfare cuts implemented by the Government.
“Ministers cannot simply expect councils to 'clear' the streets of homelessness without understanding that making poor people poorer inevitably leads to the unfortunate scenes we're all working to address.”