Teenage drunks turn Charles's dream village into nightmare hell, say residents

Homeowners line up to leave the 'Urban Village in St Austell', once billed as the Prince's new Poundbury
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The Independent Online

It was billed as the new Poundbury. Backed, and partially designed, by Prince Charles, the 147-property village, with its faux Victorian houses, man-made pond and stream, was designed to be Britain's first village in a town setting. With streets "designed for people rather than cars" residents were to be encouraged to start their own cottage businesses and create a real community which was quickly nicknamed "Charlietown Two".

But six years on, life in the "Urban Village in St Austell" is far from the utopia its sales pitch promised. Residents are at the end of their tether with teenagers drinking alcohol, taking drugs, and causing mischief. The village green has become the focal point for riotous gangs and, every weekend, the sound of police sirens, not cockerels, wake residents. Many are desperate to leave.

By day, the Urban Village still looks like a desirable place to live. A cluster of Edwardian-type cottages and Victorian-style terraced houses that sell for up to £250,000 each overlook a tree-lined green.

But, by night, the youths who blight the area congregate on the swings and climbing frame at the children's play park and drink alcohol and indulge in petty vandalism such as pulling up flowers and walking across cars. Residents say police are called to the village most weekends to move them on.

Debbie Pendry, 30, moved to the village two years ago with her husband and three children. "Living here has turned into a complete and utter nightmare," she said yesterday. "We were told this would be a lovely, quiet village with a proper community but it's not. It's more like a housing estate.

"We were told there would only be one way in and out but they put a path right through the middle and, since then, we get drunks walking through here every night, shouting and swearing. I've had traffic cones on my car and people walking through my garden. My next-door neighbour had his bin stolen. At night, the kids come here and just run riot.

"I thought this would be a nice place to bring my children up but I'm scared to let them out the front door. The plan, when we bought this place, was to stay here until our kids were grown up but now the plan is to move out as soon as possible; as soon as we can afford it."

There are other issues in the village. Complaints range from the quality of the building work to gardens being prone to flooding. Many home-owners there say they struggle even to get a decent television signal. But the rowdy youngsters provoke the most ire.

Mary Duncan, 62, and her husband bought a house overlooking the village green, and her daughter and partner bought a house just a few doors away. But, less than two years after they arrived, Mary's daughter and partner have left. Mary plans to go, too.

Outside the home that cost her £235,000, she said: "It's just not what we expected. People are fed up and no one seems to want to live here anymore. I'd sell my house tomorrow if I could but no one wants to live here. People used to be impressed if you told them you lived in the urban village. Now they jut say, 'Poor you'.

"The main problem has been drunk youths hanging around here, making a racket at night. When we moved here, we were told there would be a village green for the people who live here, but kids from all over the town come here and it feels like we are babysitting them at times. I've written a letter to Prince Charles. I'd love him to come down here and have a look at the place because I don't think this is what he had in mind when he came up with the urban village idea"

Built on a former railway siding, the St Austell's urban village was based on a similar development in Poundbury, Dorset, which has attracted widespread praise in recent years, most notably from John Prescott, the former deputy prime minister, who commended it as a model for new growth.

Inevitably, the St Austell plan has been compared to its predecessor and that, local councillor Bryan Rawlins says, has intensified the criticism. "People perhaps expected it to be like Poundbury but St Austell is completely different. There, people are very well-heeled but that's not the case here. The problems here are similar to those in most parts of Britain. It's unruly youths, it's litter and anti-social behavior. But because this place was sold to people as the perfect place to live they didn't expect any of those problems.

"They need to give the place time. It is only now finally finished and it will take a few years to become a proper community. I'm not surprised people are complaining already. Complaining is a Cornish pastime. People in this part of the world will always find something to complain about."

Stephanie Atkinson, 28, who has two children and lives in the village, says: "There is a bit of bother at night with kids shouting and making noise but I wouldn't say living here is particularly bad. The criticism has been blown out of proportion. Some people will complain about absolutely anything."

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