Inside one of England's 'WORST' towns – where fireworks are thrown at cars & machete-wielding crims run riot | The Sun

THE town where Charles Dickens grew up is now blighted by thugs who let off fireworks at police.

Locals in Chatham, Kent have said that the once pretty town is now ruined by sword wielding drug gangs.

Blue lights are just part of the landscape residents have come to expect at any time of day or night, and even the removal of a body bag from a house after a murder was seen as nothing out of the norm for mums on the school-run.

This month a national survey of 100,000 people branded the town the 37th worst in England, so we headed down to see what residents thought.

The survey included soundbites from locals such as: "A lot of people in northern England think the streets of the south east are paved with gold, but we can assure you, on Luton Road, it is more like dried blood and puke."

Others included calling the town's Luton area the "festering cesspit of Medway" declaring "the place is filthy, dirty and has been run down for the last 100 years".

Read more in news

We live in one of UK’s WORST towns – it’s a lawless hellhole rife with crime

Our town’s the WORST in UK – it’s a disgusting eyesore… even Poundland has closed

While you couldn't help noticing the unmistakable stench of weed, random bits of furniture left outside houses and definite carpet of broken glass and smeared dog poo at your feet, there were also positive signs.

For every derelict building and run-down takeaway there were some shops that had gone all-out to improve the look on the High Street.

But you also have the contradiction of the Luton Arches railway bridge, where clearly some real effort had been put into improving the appearance of the area with lovely artwork.

But a quick turn of the head brings into focus a steep verge behind some houses which was littered with an array of fly-tipped items.

Most read in The Sun


Huge ITV star replaces Ken Bruce on BBC Radio 2 after shock exit


Family of woman claiming to be Maddie break their silence


Rugby player who sued heavier opponent for £10m after belly flop WINS


Legendary reality show Geordie Shore AXED after 12 years on screen

The area is a frustrating hybrid of those businesses and residents trying to make it better and those not bothering at all.

But many of the residents are pushing back against the cliches and trying to create a good place to live.

Sly, who lives near Luton Road, set up the White Road Estate Facebook group as a way of spreading something positivearound the area.

He said: "I was fed up with people putting down the estate.

"It's actually a decent community and I'm sure there's decent people who live on Luton Road of all different ethnic backgrounds.

"Everyone is in the same boat. Just trying to make do with what they have.

"Hopefully the council will take note and start funding the areas that are run down, which surely would benefit the community and their day-to-day lives.

"Local charities such as Caring Hands and Gillingham Street Angels do fantastic things and so do local people who have set up charities. Big things start with small changes."

One such project is Arches Local, which for the last six years has been proactively trying to improve the place many people see as a "no-go area".

Organiser Stephen Perez said: "It's about how we shape it. About 99% of the people who live here are good people but they are struggling with a lot of issues, including poor housing, poverty, poor health. But they are getting on."

He said it is important to look at the positives: "We have a good school. We have a station. We have lots of good people. We have a park."

His project has gone a long way to changing the area both externally and internally.

He added: "We run Fit and Feed at Luton Primary School and a holiday club there which has more than 100 children a day.

"We put up art work down Pig Alley which has not been damaged. We worked with Network Rail to create a big mural over Luton Arches. We have planted 70 or 80 street trees.

"We are planting six trees down near Luton Arches. We are looking at park regeneration.

"In spite of all its stereotypes, it is not a bad place. In fact one of its strengths is its diversity.

"The area really just suffers from a history of poor decision-making, which is not the people who live there's fault.

"There is an overbalance of emergency accommodation, which brings its own challenges.

"The Persian Rug and Barneys Bikes in Luton Road are commercial entities which prove businesses can make money in the area."

He said: "It's just empty builds or absentee landlords that ruin it."

Chris, who has run Barneys Bikes for the last 31 years, said: "People like to make out that it's the ghetto but it's not what it's made out to be. I've got no problems here."

Karen Arnold, who has lived on the nearby White Road Estate for the past 20 years, says it's the people who make an area better.

"I live not far from Luton Road and our little road is like its own community. Most of the residents know each other and help each other out whenever needed.

"My 13-year-old son has a friend who lives on Luton Road and regularly walks or rides his bike to and from his house, including in the dark, and has never had any issues."

She thinks a major way the area could achieve a better reputation would be to improve its appearance.

She said: "It could look better. The reason it doesn't is because most of the properties are rented and the landlords can't be bothered to maintain them properly.

"Perhaps a mandatory order to maintain the outside of their properties would help.

"Maybe a local, skilled graffiti artist or painter could get permission to create a mural along that big, ugly, grey wall where the houses are raised up."

Fellow resident Natasha Boardman-Steer praised the area for its history and multi-cultural dynamic.
"The selection of world food shops is awesome. I love it," she said.

"There's also a large selection of buildings designed by George Bond and an internationally-known artist called Anne Pratt apparently lived here too."

Chatham Central councillor and Medway Labour leader, Vince Maple, thinks the ward he represents gets a bad press.

"It's always disappointing when people who do not live in Chatham come up with comments and ratings of this nature.
"If they had visited the area the other weekend, they would have been part of 50,000 enjoying the Medway Night Lights Festival, right in the heart of Chatham."

He added: "Of course, like many places, the residents do not get as many resources as we would like and we are always pushing as hard as we can for more.

"But I am proud to represent the Chatham. The people are lovely and I am happy to call it my home."

But some residents have happy memories of the past and feel it is slowly getting worse.
Charley Boothroyd, 30, who lives on Luton Road, said it was better when she was younger.

"I remember when we had a town. We had a cinema and everything. I used to love getting the Christmas Alders bear after seeing Santa. Now we have takeaways. It's such sad times.

"Even my generation can see the lack of anything in the town. It's a sad state of affairs and it's a depressing place to live really."

Sly agreed: "I remember as a kid you had Alders, with lovely Christmas window decorations, Woolworths for the pic 'n' mix, a big Tesco. The market next door to Gala Bingo.

"Things just aren't the same any more. Even the pubs and clubs are slowly becoming extinct.

"When you weigh it all up it almost feels like we are going backwards rather than forwards and it can't be good for people's mental health. But you have to try to stay positive."

In recent months Chatham has started to make headlines for different reasons.

Rather than the usual scenes on the streets, which often look like an episode of Police, Camera, Action – there was even live streaming of an armed raid, complete with circling helicopter a couple of years ago – the historic dockyard has seen the likes of Tom Cruise and Kathy Bates filming blockbuster movies.

Read More on The Sun

Dog expert reveals the three XL dog breeds they recommend for families

I found fame as a £2m thieving granny – but I’ve turned my life around

Family favourite Call the Midwife has been filmed there since its debut in 2010.

Don't forget nearby St Mary's Island which offers great housing, the dockyard and Fort Amherst, not to mention the multi-million pound town centre regeneration aimed at making it Medway's city centre.

Source: Read Full Article