The estate, properly called Cottingley Hall, comprises mostly 1970s council houses and is dominated by the two tower blocks, reputedly the tallest in Leeds. I met up with Christine Robinson-Perkins and Vikki Blake to find out about community life in Cottingley.
Between them they are involved in most of the organisations active on the estate, notably Cottingley Hall TRAC (Tenants & Residents Association of Cottingley) and Cottingley In Bloom. They stress that nothing happens without a lot of other people. “I just keep digging out volunteers” Christine says.
Both women appear to be do-ers. When they first got involved the breakfast club at Dulverton Court sheltered housing was folding due to lack of funds. Refusing to accept that was a problem, Christine went to the shop bought some coffee milk and biscuits with her own money and carried on.
Seven years later the club is still going and in fact runs itself with residents paying a small amount each week. TRAC bought the group a bingo machine and organises occasional fish and chip lunches as well as the hot breakfasts and coffee mornings.
I ask them what they think their greatest achievement has been. There’s pause and I prod them that sorting out the square with planters after the old Cottingley Arms pub was demolished is quite impressive.
“Yes, but really the best thing has been getting to know lots of people and helping to sort out the day to day issues.
“We have built up a good relationship with Councillors and agencies, so we can usually get things sorted, or at least get a straight answer.”
Like many groups TRAC doesn’t get a lot of people coming to their two monthly meetings – work, childcare, mobility all get in the way. To get round this TRAC started a Facebook Group. It now has 530 members and plenty of lively discussions.
“If people can’t get to the meeting they can ask their question on Facebook” explains Christine, “we can ask it for them and then post the answer so they, and everyone else gets an answer.”
Bin collections and fly-tipping have been long standing problems on the estate, but Facebook has opened up another channel for reporting problems and Council officers generally respond quickly. The relationship with the Police is trickier, but Vikki and Christine put this down to under-reporting of crimes on the estate which leads to less Police activity on the estate.
Christine is just starting a new role running the community centre. She wants to add to the current activities and is looking into starting a women’s self defence class, but first on the agenda is the Easter Fair on Tuesday 14 April, which is being organised jointly by TRAC, the Homework Club and Groundwork.