On the streets: 'Immigrants get a bad name, but not as bad as kids'

It is the kind of place where kids hang around on street corners of an afternoon with their Staffordshire bull terriers for company, while the men not at work are in next door's betting shop. Red-brick terraced houses line the cracked, grey roads and cars propped up on bricks dot the driveways.

Welcome to Mottingham, a "white enclave" of South-east London. But is it the kind that suffers so badly from racial tensions that the Government needs to pump in money to keep the locals from voting BNP?

"There are undoubtedly social problems in this area and the immigrants do get a bad name from time to time," said Sharon Thomas, 32-year-old owner of Mottingham's "Beauty By Specialists" yesterday. "But to say that people are worried by that is just not true. The problem is just not large enough to scare people," she added.

Tracey Doyle, a Mottingham resident, said: "I do think it is true that most of the people in this area are white and that those in the surrounding areas are not."

After a quick check around the beauty parlour to make sure nobody could overhear, she added: "Immigrants are given absolutely everything that is available to them and that is something which does cause tension." But she added: "The immigrants do not get anything that the English residents are barred from, they just get more advice on what is available."

Other residents said they were more worried about young people, who have no outlet, causing trouble. "That is why the Government should be investing in the area, not because of some worry about immigration," said Kelly Wordley, aged 25.

However, some locals admitted to an underlying discontent that dare not speak its name among the inhabitants of the "white enclave of Mottingham". They said that hushed talk in the town's pubs and shops is of how "there never used to be this many".

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