'It's a challenge but we'll get there' - the plan to revitalise Smithdown Road

There’s a certain greyness that comes with continuous drizzle.

Amid the flashing lights of shop signs on Smithdown Road and iconic purple bins, a dullness hung over the area this week as the sun that threatened to illuminate the start of summer was punctuated by persistent rain. The more literary readers could perhaps suggest the clouds that lingered around Lodge Lane, Hartington Road and Boswell Street were something of a metaphor for the ongoing issues dogging the area.

Liverpool Council has signed off on the adoption of a public space protection order (PSPO) around the roads, including Toxteth Cemetery, in a bid to stamp out issues blighting the community.

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The three-year order will give Merseyside Police and the city council greater strength to break up problem groups as well as prohibiting loud noise and disruption after a certain time. The measures have been introduced as city council officials admitted previous attempts to calm things down were “not working”.

Despite resources being invested into the area by the city and partners including Merseyside Police, residents have spoken of their frustration at ongoing issues. In a report to Liverpool council, a student who lived around Smithdown said they had developed alopecia due to stress from living in the area and “bottles being shot at our window”. They said: “This has been the worst experience of my life.

“I’m nearly being sick writing this it has affected me that much.”

A council can make a PSPO if it believes activities in a public place within the authority's area are having a “detrimental effect on the quality of life”. Once an order is made, the police, police community support officers and others authorised by Liverpool Council would have powers to issue fixed penalty notices for such breaches.

The new three-year measure will prevent creating noise using a vehicle, including revving engines or loud music, within the designated area. The document will also ban “being part of a group or gathering of six or more persons together creating noise loud enough to cause, or be likely to cause, nuisance or annoyance to another person between the hours of 10pm and 7am”.

People thought to have been involved in disruptive behaviour could face a ban of up to 24 hours from the area, with alcohol consumption within the boundaries also not permitted.

Speaking to one shop worker, there remains an apprehension to how things have become but a hope fortunes can change. They said: “There are loads of issues still. You hear of stabbings going on even in broad daylight. Kids are getting attacked for their bikes and designer coats.

“What are they meant to do these days? It’s a good thing the police will get more powers, people are getting away with too much. It’s scary the way things are going.”

In some of the streets in question, its clear the area is in need of love. A number of tired, old houses remain boarded up while graffiti and damage to exterior walls remain.

Cllr Laura Robertson-Collins, who represents the Arundel ward in which the PSPO if being enforced, said it can be a driver of a real change moving forward. She said: “It’s a really deprived area and there’s a lot of void housing there that upsets me.

“You can see they’re in bad condition by the age of them, issues of damp and similar. It’s an area that got ignored over the last few years and we want to put that right. It’s a three-pronged approach, with the police getting that high level of intervention if they need it. We also want to bring in social housing and clamp down on rogue landlords around there.

“The new landlord register will help identify who owns what and who lives where appropriately.”

Council officers conceded progress had stalled in the ward despite years of funding and attempted community engagement. Despite this, Cllr Robertson-Collins said this wasn’t a matter for giving up.

She added: “Things haven’t worked in that we have more work to do now. We were asking people to change their behaviour without a sanction and now we need to step that up. The area is uniquely deprived across the city and a real challenge but it’s got huge potential. We’ll get there.”

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