Neighbourhood forums have become increasingly popular over the years – and arguably one of the most successful has been Northgate Matters.
Inspired by the work of the Three Bridges Forum, the Northgate group was formed to help develop a community spirit among residents and to improve the ageing neighbourhood.
Chaired by Pat Teague, the group is made up entirely of volunteers, all of whom live in Northgate, and they have tackled several hot topics affecting the area.
Top of their list is speeding – particularly along Woodfield Road – and members of the team have organised Community Speed Watch events with Sussex Police to help log how fast cars travel through the neighbourhood.
Then there is the ever-present pothole problem which blights much of the town. The team has done its best to report any dotted around the neighbourhood and has repeatedly confronted county council officials about the problem.
Then there is the environment.
At Crawley Borough Council’s Let’s FACE It! Awards this year, Northgate Matters was named Best Newcomer for the team’s work to make their neighbourhood and better and more attractive place to live.
Bulb planting sessions, litter picking – they’ve done it all.
But it’s the Northgate Matter summer event which is becoming hugely popular with residents.
In 2012, the team managed to select one of the only dry weekends of the year for their first event – and more than 600 people turned out to share the fun.
So what prompted people to join?
Treasurer Barry Thayre has been involved with the forum since day one.
He said: “I had two main reasons for joining. One was to give me an interest outside of my usual routine, also hopefully find a way to tidy up Northgate, as I thought it was beginning to look somewhat untidy and not as well looked after as it has been in the past.”
Barry’s experience in graphic design has given the group its eye-catching logo and flyers.
He added: “Having lived in the neighborhood for almost 40 years, I remember both residents and the local authorities contributing more to keep the place looking more presentable than it is now.
“I thought the forum was maybe a way forward to work with other like-minded people to make small improvements which would encourage others to also make a contribution and to engender a little more pride and get back to a more cared-for look.”
And while some people insist that keeping the community tidy should be the responsibility of the local council, Barry does not share their view.
He added: “With all the financial restrictions we all have to live with these days, it is unrealistic to rely on the local councils to have the money and therefore manpower to keep to streets as clean or grass cut as often as happened in the past.
“Northgate Matters has helped the neighborhood in two main directions.
“A definite village atmosphere has emerged, giving both residents and local businesses a sense of local purpose.
“I get asked ‘what is the next event going to be?’ or ‘are we having a summer event next year?’
“Northgate Matters has also influenced some local improvements such as progress in repairing the road surface in Woodfield Road and cutting back overgrown greenery which is obstructing pathways, tackling the flooding in The Parade car park and other streets, other small improvements plus the panting of bulbs which brighten up verges in springtime.”
To find out more about Northgate Matters, visit www.crawley.gov.uk and go to Community and Neighbourhoods.