"We need to regenerate self confidence in Thamesmead if the area is to have a successful future." That was the message this week from the head of Trust Thamesmead - and it's a message that is being backed by a leading academic.
Chief Executive Mick Hayes told the audience at the development agency's Annual General Meeting that Thamesmead had a very bright future if it could only get its belief and self-confidence back. He said: "There are some extremely positive trends in Thamesmead today and we need to build on those for tomorrow. Once you've tasted success you want more and I am convinced that the negativity of the past is being overtaken by a growing feeling of optimism for the future".
This view was endorsed by the guest speaker at the meeting, Professor Richard Scase of the University of Kent, who is due to present his report on 'A Vision for Thamesmead' later this month.
He told the audience at the Thamesmere Leisure Centre that "this was a critical time for Thamesmead which could go one of two ways. The worst case scenario" he said "would be a downward spiral where social deprivation in some Thamesmead neighbourhoods not only continued but increased. This was not being helped by the current trend of buy-to-let which is resulting in some areas in a transient population which is contributing little to the fabric of the community.
"On the other hand" he said "Thamesmead was better placed than almost anywhere in London and the South East to encourage inward investment and opportunity for sustainable growth".
Professor Scase called on Thamesmead to find a champion to promote itself and seriously challenge the negative perceptions held by those in the community and those with the power to effect change.
The Chair of the Trust's Board, Jackie Smith, said "We have a very clear vision on how we want to see Thamesmead develop, a town where people choose to live which is at the very heart of the Thames Gateway. It is an ambitious vision - anything else would be selling local people short.
"As well as investing in our own buildings and services we are also championing the investment in community facilities, public services and social infrastructure locally. We have also given a much greater priority to community development, increasing the capacity and skills of local community groups. We haven't achieved all this on our own. Strong partnerships are hard work but collaborating underpins everything we do and I would like to thank the local businesses, schools, community groups, agencies and our many partners who have beeen instrumental in our success this year."
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