But it can wreak havoc on a council estate:
When Cheryl Ann was a schoolgirl, she dreamed of the day when she could live on the Manor Farm estate.
To Cheryl, as she made her daily trek to Monks Park School from her family home in Montpellier, the neat rows of modern council houses offered an image of utopia alive and well in Horfield.I can well imagine. There’s similar ‘nice pockets’ on the council estate I grew up in. Mostly historically occupied by council staff and their friends, mind you.
Her dream half came true. Three decades on, Cheryl is not only a long-standing council house resident on Manor Farm, but as Horfield ward councillor she represents the area on the city council.So…what about the other half?
But the vision of Manor Farm as a kind of utopia has slipped from her eyes, and is currently rotting in the rain-soaked gutters of the estate along with the casually-strewn litter and cigarette stubs.Just part of the general societal decline? Well, not quite:
Cheryl will be the first to tell you that the small estate has gone downhill in the 15 years since she moved into her home.
A minority of trouble-making teens and their extended dysfunctional families are making life hell for the residents here.Ah. Of course.
And so what was a well-run, decent place to live becomes a nightmare, as the council refuses to crack down on the nuisances they’ve probably decanted from elsewhere, and the whole area goes to pot as a result.
Just last week the Post reported the story of a 14-year-old teen who ran feral on the estate, abusing his neighbours with a list of offences stretching from burglary and arson to attempted robbery and sexual assault.
Cheryl believes the extraordinary case should mark the end of the misery. She believes the long and grim decline of the estate needs to be stubbed out once and for all.
In short, the law-abiding majority need to stand up for their home.Try moving a few councillors into the place alongside you, or even better, a council CEO or police chief, or magistrate. That’ll concentrate the mind!
"People live in fear," Cheryl tells me, with a glance out of her lounge window at the rows of council houses.
"At some point in the last 15 years, the decent people stepped back – they withdrew into their homes and protected themselves from the anti-social behaviour as best they could.
"I see good people leaving the estate all the time because of the way things are here now.
"That's not going to improve the future of the estate.
"We need to stay. We need to stick together and stand up to the trouble element which are making our lives a nightmare."Yes, indeed. But you need a support structure that will back you up when you do so, and ensure that there are serious consequences for anti-social behaviour.
Without that, these people just laugh in your face.
"People are far less likely to go down to the Council House to report problems than they might be to pop in to a small office here on the estate, where they could call-in while they visit the local shops."
It's just one of the projects Cheryl is working on as part of her crusade to get Manor Farm back on track.And it’s a good idea. But it’s not going to help if it isn’t supported by the justice system.
Confidence, Cheryl believes, is the key to the estate's regeneration.
"I don't want to see my neighbours intimidated and afraid," she says. "I don't want to see children on the estate that are so intimidated that their education is damaged. I don't want to see houses where peoples' degenerate lifestyles – the drinking and overt drug-taking – leave their neighbours miserable and angry."But first, Cheryl, we have to relearn disapproval and non-acceptance of such people’s lifestyle. Don’t we?