Divided Yorkshire: ‘People shouldn’t have to live like they do here’

Eric Williams, 77, retired engineer and long-term resident of Wellsted Street, Hull which has some of the cheapest property prices in Yorkshire.

Eric Williams, 77, retired engineer and long-term resident of Wellsted Street, Hull which has some of the cheapest property prices in Yorkshire.

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It’s a short street with a big reputation.

Branded an “abomination” a decade ago, residents of Wellsted Street, off Hessle Road, in Hull admit it’s long had a poor reputation and that “mud sticks”.

The ward it is in, St Andrew’s, has the average cheapest property in Yorkshire at £54,036, and Wellsted Street is one of the cheapest, not just locally, but nationally. A three-bedroom terraced house could be yours for £40,000.

A quick look round tells a sorry tale; the margins of the small park are festooned with rubbish – broken TV’s, sofa beds, and even large frilly cushions.

Above all there’s bottles and cans – lager and vodka apparently the favourite tipple of a largely immigrant community.

“You’re the only English person I’ve spoken to recently,” says 77-year-old retired engineer and unofficial litter picker Eric Williams, who took just six hours to clear 2,000 cans a few weeks ago.

The street – once the home to the deckhands and first mates who went out deep sea fishing from nearby St Andrews Dock – had its dark time from 2005 to 2007 when it was under the threat of demolition from the Gateway “regeneration” scheme, with investors from London buying up houses for as little as £20,000 in the hope of a £30,000 profit, once they were compulsorily purchased by Hull Council.

But their money-making scheme faded when the demolition axe was lifted and the coalition pulled the plug on the scheme.

For a time crime was rife, houses were burned out and residents fought a losing battle with scrap metal thieves.

The evidence is still there to see in the still boarded-up houses in terraces off the road, some of which have a grim, jail-like 
atmosphere from the high security railings which enclose them.

In the last couple of years Polish, Nigerian, Latvian and Russians have moved in, occupying many of the houses. Others are occupied or squatted, according to locals, by people kicked off council housing estates.

Mr Williams, who has travelled widely, says he has no 
problem with the “smartly-dressed, purposeful” incomers, but says there’s no cohesion as people stay in their own cliques and their English is minimal.

He said: “I would say it is incommunicado 85 per cent of the area is not English.”

But there is hope on the horizon. A house opposite the shop which was bricked up by a landlord in the “dark era” has just had new windows installed.

Ward councillor Daren Hale suggests looking at some streets not so far away where the council is refurbishing houses. And indeed Aylesford Street and its surrounds have been transformed, the houses coated in insulation and rendered pink, and tidy brick walls and gates installed.

The council has borrowed £3m to finish off the scheme.

Coun Hale said: “When the Government pulled the requirement for energy companies to contribute we were half way through the next phase so we had step in and find the money to finish the scheme. What we are most proud of is Aylesford Street and Airlie Street, that we got the money together and made it stack up.

“People shouldn’t have to live as they live now in Wellsted Street.”

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