The Fact Find

  • Community Hub: ABC (A Better Cliftonville) Thanet

  • Location: Margate, Kent

  • Residents: 6,000

  • Strategic partners: Margate Task Force, Public Health, Police

  • Date 7-Steps began: 2011

Cliftonville Story – From top resort to last resort!

Cliftonville West was once a thriving & affluent holiday destination with a High St boasting Fortnum & Masons & Rolls Royce. But with the onset of package holidays, in common with many other coastal towns, a steady decline set in over 4 decades, resulting in an ever increasing transient, migrant and multi-cultural population. Property prices plummeted with disastrous consequences as large spacious Victorian homes & hotels were purchased by unscrupulous landlords and cheaply converted into houses of multiple occupation at low rents reflecting their dilapidation. Anti-social behaviour, crime, high unemployment & poor health soon followed.

Key Issues – Poor cultural integration, alienation, poverty & disconnection.

Struggles with transitory living and short-term housing occupancy quickly spiralled into a square mile area suffering poverty and becoming a ‘dumping ground’ for vulnerable people with no choice, manifesting in drug, alcohol, domestic abuse, gangs and trafficking.

Between them residents spoke forty-six different languages and were becoming increasingly disengaged with each other and local service providers. Even the free newspaper circulation ceased, cutting people off from a key source of local community information.

Mental & physical health declined to an all time low with Cliftonville’s average life expectancy thirteen years less than the county as a whole – the area desperately needed change.

The Solution – Margate Task Force meets C2!

As a response in 2012, Thanet District Council established Margate Task Force (MTF) comprising almost twenty different local agencies, led by the Kent Fire and Rescue Service to drive transformation and rewrite the future of Margate Central and Cliftonville West. Key strategic partners included the Police, Public Health, Dept. Work & Pensions and Kent County Council.

With the aim of improving health and wellbeing and reducing ASB, MTF set about tackling the root causes of housing issues, anti-social behaviour and crime. Doorstep conversations during ‘Street Weeks’ led to joint multi-agency problem-solving strategies that slowly but surely brought real change to this deeply dysfunctional community.

But a deeper level of engagement to find Cliftonville’s collective community voice proved hard.

C2 – the missing piece of the jigsaw!

Following an introduction by Andy Scott Clarke, Director of Public Health, members of the MTF and residents attended a C2 Experiential Learning programme in Exeter 2012.

This proved transformative in cementing theory to practice and catapulted the headway already established by MTF. Preparation for a pioneering Listening Event took place with door-to-door personalised postcard invitations, translated for every dialect required and despite cynicism from many, an unprecedented 131 local people attended! Collectively, residents and agencies prioritised waste, dog fouling and fly tipping as the main barriers to health & well being and not, as many had predicted, ASB & drugs. This powerful event saw the birth of ABC (A Better Cliftonville) to jointly tackle these issues. It took a few meetings to get ABC moving but with key movers and shakers in place – residents and agency partners – small successes went from strength to strength.

The group combined collective skills and a can-do ethos, collaborating with key players in the area. Resolving litter, implementing waste and recycling initiatives.

The Activities – Tackling waste & problem solving together.

ABC Waste Management Forum formed with the support of the district council and clean-up operations began including regular litter picks and bin provision, progressed by monthly forum meetings that have continued to date.

ABC quickly became involved in the Town Scape Heritage Scheme enabling a collaborative approach to designing the Dalby Square Gardens. Also a children’s play area, dog walker recreation space, landscaped gardens and essential amenities such as a phone box and extra rubbish bins were co-designed & delivered with ABC.

Regular ‘Wine and Wisdom’ evenings, music festivals, seasonal parties and the continued work of the Waste Management Forum ensure residents and agencies communicate about ground level issues on a monthly basis.

A recent political candidate Hustings event, attracted over 100 local people to share their views about issues and solutions for their home town. At long last Cliftonville had found its voice!

The Benefits – The power of communication

Residents recognised the importance and power of communicating with each other and their service providers. Further partnerships have been formed with Friends of Cliftonville Coastline, GRASS, Cliftonville in Bloom, TDC, and the Cliftonville Conservation Group.

Young children got involved with gardening groups, outdoor and indoor activities, teenagers developed a Quarter Deck social club and the elderly organised a series of good old-fashioned socials from jumble sales and quizzes to bingo and outdoor fetes. In a nutshell people connected and became the catalyst for change.

The Biggest Achievements – Enabling resident-led change & improving cultural integration.

Bringing together the right people with the right attitude, always led by residents and all committed to a long-term vision is gradually transforming Cliftonville. The transiency is disappearing and residents are making Cliftonville their home once more.