Marsh Farm riots: Regeneration to leave behind 'negative' past

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Marsh FarmImage source, Engie
Image caption,
The first buildings to be completed at the regenerated Marsh Farm estate were 24 residential flats with six retail units

The £32m regeneration of an estate hit by riots in the 1990s is helping to shed its "bad reputation", a councillor said.

The final phase of work has started on Marsh Farm in Luton, where police were attacked in riots during the 1990s.

The work has seen the estate's shopping areas redeveloped and new homes built.

Labour's Tom Shaw, portfolio holder for housing on the borough council, said the work would help the estate move on from its past.

"The bad reputation - people keep on talking about that," he said.

"That was 25 years ago. People who live on Marsh Farm, love Marsh Farm."

The estate, in north Luton, had two nights of rioting in July 1995 when police officers were attacked with petrol bombs, bottles and bricks in a riot involving about 500 people. It followed four days of rioting in 1992.

Image caption,
Riots broke out on Marsh Farm in the 1990s
Image caption,
Police were attacked with petrol bombs, bottles and bricks in July 1995

The redevelopment of the estate's shopping area, being carried out on behalf of Luton Borough Council, started in January 2016 with the building of 24 flats and six shops.

The next phase saw the demolition of the 1960s flats and the Purley Centre shopping precinct, with work now under way to build 94 council homes by 2020.

Image caption,
The final phase of the work features 94 social housing apartments and houses, which will be owned and managed by the council
Media caption,

The demolition of the Purley Centre and a block of flats started in November 2017

Glen Jenkins, who lives on Marsh Farm, said: "We are moving away from negative perceptions.

"The physical transformation is nearly there, but we still need to work on the social and economic health of the area."

Mark Peasey, divisional director at Engie, the firm carrying out the work, said the riots were "a long, long time ago".

"We are developing skills for local people and we can leave a legacy behind [with people] continuing to work in the construction industry," he said.

Image caption,
Elliot Diffley (left) said the response from residents was "positive", while Ronnie Carroll, who has lived in the area for 50 years, remembers the site as "just fields" in 1968

That includes Ronnie Carroll, who lives in Luton, and said: "I think it's all right - it keeps everyone employed. We will just have to see how it goes."

Elliott Diffley, another labourer who lives in nearby Leagrave, in Luton, said: "The response I have had from the locals is positive - they are happy the regeneration is happening."

Image caption,
Paresh Shah runs Hardware Buzzar in the new shopping centre and has lived in the area since 1991

Paresh Shah, of Hardware Buzzar, said a move to one of the new units had been "very good and positive".

"I think it has opened up the area," he said. "I am feeling gorgeous about the future."

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