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Broadwater Farm reaps fruit of reinvention

BROADWATER FARM estate, where bloody riots nine years ago led to the murder of PC Keith Blakelock, is reinventing itself.

A pounds 33m redevelopment, much of it controlled and carried out by residents of the estate in north London, is bearing fruit. The hideous, prefabricated concrete exterior is being covered with soothing grey/green geometric patterns. Landscaped gardens, a new community centre, and refurbishment of the estate's buildings are changing its look. At the back of the estate, where work is complete, it looks like one of the better European apartment blocks.

Last week, the Crown Prosecution Service announced that there would be no prosecutions in the Blakelock case. In the public mind, the name Broadwater Farm is inevitably linked with the riots. But much has changed since that night in October 1985.

Brian Stout, 63, manages the Enterprise Centre on the estate. Built of new brick, within the concrete structure of the ugly walkways, the centre impinges on the senses.

Mr Stout, from Bromley, Kent, had initially had doubts about working on the estate. 'I have to say that, in common with most of the public, the only thing I'd heard about the estates were the riots,' he said. 'I had doubts but I was quickly impressed by people's attitudes.'

Much of the estate's bad reputation is now undeserved. Crime there is below the average for the division, which in turn is below the average for the borough of Haringey.

Mr Stout, a former charity worker and founder of the country's first managed workspace project in Covent Garden, is helping unemployed people from the estate start up in business. 'Unemployment is the major problem,' he said. 'We are improving the environment here but you can't escape the fact that half of the local population is unemployed.'

Black youths on the estate are still deeply distrustful of the media, wary of the police. But they regret PC Blakelock's murder and the events which followed it. The police will not discuss the estate because two senior detectives tomorrow go on trial for alleged conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Reaction to the announcement last week was mixed. Many shared the view of PC Blakelock's widow, Elizabeth, that the matter can never be properly laid to rest until his murderers are caught.

Sandra Smith, 42, a secretary and mother of one, said: 'At the end of the day justice has to be done. Something has to come out to find out who killed PC Blakelock. Until they find the people involved we can't have any peace.'

Sam Annor, 41, a student, said: 'If in the future the true facts come out and they find the person who did it they should be brought to justice.'

'I feel sorry for the relatives of the PC,' Errol Brown said. 'I have sympathy with PC Blakelock's wife and the family he left behind. But the police got it wrong right from the beginning and there's mistrust between the police and the people.

'I'm not surprised people don't come forward to help. It will be difficult to find the real killer if they don't have that co- operation, but it would be good if the killer can be brought to justice.'

Sallaf Kwadw, 43, father of five and a car-park cashier, took a different view, one that appears to be shared by most young men. He wants the riot to be forgotten. He said: 'It's a relief the police are going to let it lie. Now people can get on with their lives.'

A young black man said: 'All this business has given Broadwater a bad name. There's no need to investigate any further. What's happened is in the past and people just want to get on with their lives.'

(Photograph omitted)