The people of Rishton have been told to lose their divided mentality if they ever want to be serious about regenerating the town.
Mr. Nigel Rix, who was the head of Hyndburn FIRST, the regeneration arm of Hyndburn Borough Council in 2002, said he was concerned about "people that live o'er bridge" on Hermitage Street, and its surrounding streets. He had heard that "People living in the area think they are neglected and that all the money gets spent on people living "above the bridge"".
Mr Rix acknowledge that Rishton had its problems, a health centre that wasn't big enough to meet the needs of the community, and run down factories such as Heskdale's (Britannia Mill) on Spring Street. Shoddy fronted houses on Hermitage Street were also mentioned at the Towns Area Council meeting.
Mr. Rix went on to say that the Borough Council was serious about regenerating the town, but this would take a number of years.
This report was published by the Accrington Observer on Friday, 27th September 2002.
Web Authors opinion.
This has always been an ongoing joke in Rishton. Coming from O'er Bridge myself, I have felt this divide. The only solace which has ever been felt is knowing that the people who live up the top end of Rishton only eat jam butties!!! But even this isn't true anymore. (History tells us that most people ate jam butties as normal diet, but even the most hard up people could buy a scrag end of meat to make a stew.)
Not only that but the Bottom end of Rishton was once the centre of town, the area growing from the Holt upwards.
Money spent in Rishton has gone on the progress of the town, Cutt Wood Park has had thousands of pounds spent on it over the years, while the bottom recreation area (Holt Street) has had all its playground equipment removed, and even its football pitch, ready to be sold off for housing? I spoke with a council official in 2001 who was measuring the perimeter for new fencing to be erected and even he admitted that there was little chance of this happening. (no fencing was in place in 2003, but the Gardner's Residents Association were fighting for the area to be reinstated)
The list goes on, and it is no good harping on about it here, but the web author agrees with the fact that there is a divide between the bottom end of Rishton and the rest of the town.
A couple of weeks later in the same paper, this reply was placed in the paper to Mr. Rix's comments;
I feel I must reply to the article "A bridge too far for divided Rishton folk", published in the District News section of your paper on Friday September 27th 2002. I am the chairman of the Gardeners Residents Association which was formed by residents living "below the bridge" to represent the people of Rishton. Our aim is to lobby the council to improve facilities in Rishton, primarily below the bridge but eventually for the whole of Rishton.
The association was formed because the community "below the bridge" have seen very little investment in facilities or amenities below the bridge since Hyndburn Council was formed over twenty years ago.
The divisions to which Mr. Nigel Rix refers have been created by the council due to its neglect of the area. Residents living below the bridge have been patient for the last twenty years but things are now coming to a head and we feel we must stand up for our rights.
The council were asked, at an area open forum, if they could tell us what had been spent on facilities and amenities below the bridge over the last ten years. The councils answer was "we are paying to demolish some council owned flats".
We see money being spent on facilities in the park on Blackburn Road and on the recreation ground at the back of Harwood Road while our recreation ground had the children's play equipment removed approximately ten years ago. Despite protests and petitions from local residents the equipment has not been replaced and we are now being told the council will not be renewing the lease. This means the land will be used for building, allotments will be lost and more residents will have no facilities.
Our only garden in the area was financed and created by a voluntary group, other areas of Rishton have council maintained gardens. Hanging baskets have appeared on the High St. but these finish at the bridge. Street calming measures and new street signs are in place and are planned for the streets on both sides of the High Street, yet the council have ignored pleas from residents of Parker Street, who asked for measures to be put in place to slow down Heavy Goods Vehicles and works traffic visiting the two factories on the street.
The map of Rishton on the side of the Library finishes at the canal bridge, our Christmas tree is being relocated to the High Street, and our bus service has been axed.
These issues may seem trivial to some people but to residents living "below the bridge" they are a just a few tangible examples among many that demonstrate the councils lack of interest and neglect of the area.
The most blatant example of the councils discrimination was brought to my attention last week. Children living below the bridge do not qualify to attend Norden Secondary School in Rishton, preference is given to children living in Great Harwood over those living below the bridge in Rishton. When all the places in the school are filled children living below the bridge have to attend schools in Accrington, and as I stated previously the bus service from the bottom of Rishton to Accrington has been withdrawn.
Chairman Gardeners Residents Association
Accrington Observer on Friday, 27th September 2002.