'There needs to be a thirst for change' - Anti-social behaviour at the Trader Clock and town centre threatens to hinder Worksop's new age
It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times – Worksop is on the cusp of a new age post-pandemic and seems to have more regeneration projects on the go than ever, but as in most towns, crime is hindering its progression.
Last week saw well-used seating around Bridge Street’s Trader Clock, an integral part of the town’s history that also serves as one of its central meeting points, removed.
This was due to ‘the undesirables that hang around there, no doubt’ one new resident, who was also appalled to find drugs paraphernalia littered around the historic Priory Gatehouse during a not-so-romantic stroll, told us.
One woman wrote a letter to the Guardian admitting that she feels too frightened to venture into town and lend her hand to its recovering economy.
And another had a lot to say, praising considerable investment being made in the town centre as part of the Worksop Masterplan, but questioning its efficacy due to ‘congregating yobs, vandalism and smells of marijuana regularly encountered’.
“Any visitor to the town centre cannot have failed to notice the gatherings around the central clock, seating, telephone box and bus shelters,” she said.
"The individuals concerned are obviously under the influence of various substances and are a constant nuisance to shoppers and businesses alike- these gatherings are very intimidating and frightening.
“It’s something we neither want our elderly relatives to encounter nor our children to experience. In the aftermath of the pandemic, there is a desire to shop, eat and drink locally.
"But without significant actions to address these problems the town centre will never become the prosperous place it once was and should be again.”
Philip Jackson, chair of the Worksop Business Forum and the town’s Shop Watch, argues the atmosphere in the town centre is actually improving, ‘particularly around the trader clock’.
“Following complaints Bassetlaw District Council’s community safety manager set up a meeting to discuss town centre issues with a group of us who are working hard to improve the town centre for both the businesses and the public,” said Mr Jackson.
“Changes have been made around the trader clock that have encouraged the area’s regulars to spend less time there, allowing the visiting public to feel a little more at ease.
“Businesses and market traders in the area have told me things are starting to improve. There is a lot more work to do in the town centre, but this is a positive start.”
Mr Jackson is one of just many people and authorities, including Bassetlaw District Council, working behind the scenes to restore Worksop to former glories while taking concerns about crime seriously.
Councillor Simon Greaves, leader of Bassetlaw District Council, said: “I have listened to the concerns of the public and understand their frustrations.
"I share their view that the group of individuals that gather in the town centre are causing concern among the public and businesses and with our partners we are working hard to improve the town centre and create a solution that will resolve the current situation.
“However, I would like to reassure people that Worksop is a safe place to visit and we continue to work with Nottinghamshire Police to address ASB in the town centre, which is covered by a Public Spaces Protection Order.
“If members of the public believe that any individuals have breached any of the conditions covered by the PSPO, or are involved in any form of illegal activity, they should report this to the police.
“The seating around the Trader Clock has been removed for maintenance, but we will keep a watching brief on this situation to see if this prompts any changes in behaviour and stops it from being a gathering point.
“Thanks to our partnership with Framework, CGL and Hope, the district’s street outreach team has reported that there is currently just one rough sleeper in the town centre.
“In order to further improve safety in our town centres we have applied to the Home Office’s Safer Street Funding, through the Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner, to combat anti-social behaviour and any criminal issues in the town centre.”
Newly-elected councillors on the scene have also made tackling town centre crime a priority as they begin their four year terms.
Nigel Turner, who retired from his busy director job at North Nottinghamshire Arena only to be elected as Nottinghamshire County Councillor for Worksop South earlier this month said this this is ‘something that will not happen overnight’ and not without a ‘thirst for change’.
"One of the key election pledges in my plan for Worksop South was the regeneration of our town centre and supporting small businesses,” added Coun Turner.
“For too long we have witnessed its decline and I’m very keen to turn around the town centre – transforming it back to its former self, a safe, clean and vibrant haven for all the community.”
Coun Turner called for the creation of a steering group and ‘cohesive approach from all interested parties’, including MP Brendan Clarke-Smith, Nottinghamshire Police, Bassetlaw District Council, Nottinghamshire County Council, businesses, the Guardian and ‘last, but certainly not least, our local community’.
“I believe in order to implement change, interested parties have to recognise there is a need for change, hold their hands up and accept responsibility,” he added.
"Yes, many towns are in decline, is that an excuse for accepting it, shrugging our shoulders and offering that as a reason?
“In my opinion, that is the easy way out, and is just not good enough.”
Newly-elected Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry hinted at an increased police presence in Worksop’s future, telling the Guardian: “I visited Worksop Police Station in my first week in this job and was impressed at the obvious commitment of the officers and staff to tackling this type of behaviour.
"I’m currently working on my police and crime plan, which sets the strategic direction for policing, and I will be clear on the importance of police visibility.
“And there will be more officers. In the coming year there will be an additional 100 officers joining Nottinghamshire Police thanks to the police uplift programme and I will do everything I can to support further increases.”
Neighbourhood Policing Inspector for Bassetlaw Neil Bellamy said: "As the local policing team, we are committed to listening to the concerns of our community and acting on information that we receive.
"Local officers conduct regular patrols and take part in proactive operations, and in particular, our dedicated Reacher team proactively work to tackle drug dealing and drug-related crime, alongside working with partners to consider the health aspect of drug use.
"Whenever we come across this, we engage with individuals involved and take appropriate action, which includes seizing items, moving people out of certain areas and, when appropriate, making arrests.
"We would encourage anyone with any information or concerns to get in touch with us via 101."