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Park Hill: Looking Back, Moving Forward

David Watkins, chair of Park Hill Residents’ Association:

What is the general community feel like in Park Hill today?
We have a wide variety of people but that’s the way we like it. 40% of the flats are made up of affordable housing here, which is something we’re proud of. We’ve got a huge variety of income groups here: there are people on benefits and then there are some wealthier people – for example, there’s someone who also lives in Canary Wharf. It’s quite an interesting place and it can be quite challenging but everyone is proud of where they come from. It’s certainly worth looking around if you haven’t been.

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What are your views on the idea that the redevelopment is mostly about gentrifying the area?
I went along to committee meetings on the planning stages and we actually did make amendments so as a residents’ association we were involved in the planning with Urban Splash, and we mainly support what they’re trying to do. A small amount of gentrification is probably a good thing in this area, but I don’t mean posh flats and wine bars; we want it to be more like an artistic gentrification with students moving in too. The sorts of things they do I suspect will get more people interested in the area. We’ve also got the S1 Artspace and in a year or so we’re going to collaborate with Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Are there any concerns from residents?
There were some concerns raised on the lack of social housing. We like having it there, it’s a good thing to have a widespread community and we believe everyone should have a nice place to live whether you’re a doctor, a dustman or someone on benefits walking around with a pushchair. That was the original idea. The lack of housing benefits is affecting the new plans though.

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