The Beacon and Old Hill estate used to be viewed by police as an "open prison" where families warred over drugs, mothers fought each other at the school gates, pets were tortured and six-year-old boys were found drunk in the streets, But today the area is seen as a model of neighborhood regeneration.
Most of the Beacon estate was built in the early part of the last century to house the 3,000 employees of Falmouth's once thriving docks, which now employ only 300 casual workers. Hidden from the tourist, who could see only the surrounding splendor of the long marina and stunning estuary views, it had in the last 90's become an island of desolation. A Bristol University study found that, with a population of 6,000 in 1,500 homes, Beacon was the largest and poorest estate in Cornwall.
The estate was sinking into ghetto status, The place was a virtual no-go area for the police. Social services cutbacks meant there was no hands-on help for people. The number of child protection referrals just kept increasing, more and more people were suffering from mental health problems, there was lots of domestic violence and lots of crime and harassment. People thought of the area of cornwalls equivalent of Toxteth.
The source of the success to the regeneration of the area has been the determination of a handful of residents, with the support of dedicated health visitors, and local teachers, police and housing officers. Other key factors include a programme of energy conservation measures and a range of modest community projects.
Over the Past nine years the dynamics of the area have dramatically changed, with the influx of the student population of the exponentially expanding university, the excess of students requiring cheep rental housing have steadily moved into the area creating a diverse community with a mixture of the local Cornish residents and students from all over the country and international students from all over the world.
With this large change in the population of such a small area, I feel that the current state of the community is in a state of flux, its on the edge of embracing the new diverse population and allowing them to integrate into the community creating a healthier and ultimately more stable community, or will it fall foul to the reputation of Cornwall being a notoriously closed community that doesn’t welcome none Cornish people moving to the area blaming then for the high level of unemployment and level of crime in there areas, will the community evolve to survive or will to revert to what it once was an area thriving on anger and hate and the crime that goes with it.
Life Through My Eyes Published March 28, 2008