The Project's official catchment covers the Upper Calder Valley region of Calderdale, consisting of Hebden Royd (Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd), Luddendenfoot and Todmorden and the surrounding hilltop villages. While the parent project works in and supports the entire region mentioned, it has primarily been working within Hebden Royd over the last few years.
The Calder Valley region is predominantly rural and forms part of the Pennine Rural Development Area.
The main communication routes through the area - roads and railway - were predominantly built along the floor of the valley, from east to west, with only limited and often steep transport links to the many small settlements on either side of the Valley. Settlements, which appear to be 'next door neighbours' on maps, are often only accessible by travelling down first to the valley bottom. Steep hillsides and watercourses running between the settlements have resulted in the development of relatively self-contained and isolated hilltop communities.
Based in the centralised town of Hebden Bridge, the parent project has developed a special and enduring relationship with the town. As well as being a prime site for developing centralised resources for the region, the town was severely under-resourced in community amenities, something the Project has managed to help remedy over the years.
The overall population of the upper Calder Valley at the last census was 32,784. The region has one main town, Todmorden (with a population of 10,285 including the surrounding villages). Further down the valley is the market town of Hebden Bridge, which currently houses the Project (the Calder Valley Ward has a total population of 11,600, spread between Hebden Bridge and the surrounding 'villages'). Luddendenfoot Ward which includes parts of Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd has a population of 10,899.
Reflecting falling birth-rates prior to the 1990s, the Census shows that number of young adults (aged 16-24) had fallen, however the fall was far smaller than for the rest of West Yorkshire - down by only 3% in comparison with a fall of 5.8% throughout the region.
The proportion of people over the official retirement age is only slightly higher than the average for West Yorkshire (9% in comparison with 8.7% for West Yorkshire) however, the proportion of people aged 75 and older is considerably higher (7.6%).
While it is extremely difficult to identify with any accuracy the number of people affected or disadvantaged by either disability or a long-term illness, the available figures seem to indicate that well in excess of a quarter of all families in the region has at least one person with either a long-term illness or a disability. This is, we believe, a conservative estimate.
People with disabilities are particularly disadvantaged in the region's more remote areas in terms of transport and distance as well as lack of access to both suitable buildings and facilities.
In the past this region was primarily an industrial area with many manufacturing mills, a remnant of home industry and some farming communities in outlying areas. After many of the mills closed in the 60s many of the local people began leaving the area in a continuing exodus in search of employment. At the same time a smaller influx of people began to enter the area from outside Calderdale.
The area offered many advantages: the ease of commuting as well as what were then low local house prices. Many of the people who moved into the area did so, either to retire or to use the valley as a base from which to commute to either Greater Manchester or other parts of West Yorkshire such as Leeds or Bradford.
This influx coincided with a change in the local economy, which began to turn away from an industrial base towards the service industries, particularly tourism, which is now flourishing. Visitors to the region, and Hebden Bridge in particular, find it a 'joy to visit'.
To date, the town has remained free of chain shops, instead relying on local attractions such as craft mills, the Rochdale Canal and the surrounding countryside which attracts walkers in their thousands. Hebden Bridge is now seen as a town from which 'lawyers, social workers, media-folk and other professionals commute...'
In addition, many of the local shops moved away from catering for local needs into providing goods aimed at the tourist industry. This has meant that many necessities can now only be bought in either Halifax (located 8 miles from Hebden Bridge) or Todmorden (5 miles), and many elect to shop in the surrounding cities of Manchester, Bradford and Leeds all of which are within a 35 mile radius of Hebden Bridge.
There have always been a large number of part-time workers (generally females) in the region. Originally they worked in the textile industry but now increasingly it is within the personal services industries such as catering.
In fact many of the local employment opportunities are either part-time or less than 20 hours a week (technically full-time from the statistical point of view).
The local community is polarised into two extremes. A substantial proportion of the people are fairly well-off, generally commute to work, have access to better quality housing and can afford to buy in services not generally available locally. In contrast is a larger segment of the local population who generally live on or below the poverty line, are socially-isolated, lack the transport or finance to travel regularly outside the area for resources and are reliant on local employment opportunities (which are generally poorly paid and frequently only part-time).
The Low Pay Unit had identified that people locally on low wages could be receiving as much as 25% lower than the UK average low wage, many still receiving below the minimum wage. In addition the level of people reliant on part-time employment is exceptionally high - 35% in comparison with the national average of 26%.
Single parents are clearly disadvantaged in terms of access to decent paid employment and transport. The Calder Valley ward has above the West Yorkshire average number of single parents (16.2%). As a result transport has become a major issue for local people wishing to return to employment.
Statistically, Hebden Bridge (and the nearby village of Mytholmroyd) would appear to be a fairly well-off community. This is due to the fact that the smaller number of better-off household's balance out a much larger number of local families living on or below the poverty line, effectively disguising the true level of poverty locally.
It is understandable that many fail to realise the true extent of poverty and deprivation locally, the majority of people believe that it is relatively rare for wealth and poverty to live next door to each other within the same rural wards.
Recently it was revealed that the top 10% of earners nationally receive as much income as the whole of the bottom half of the population.
The problem with geographical targeting of poverty is that it reflects a popular fallacy: that everyone living within a 'rich' locality is personally rich or well off. Statistically the latest national government study into poverty (A Divided Britain?) stated that 'poverty and prosperity are neighbours in every part of Britain' and revealed that nearly 50% of families recognised as living on or below the poverty line outside the designated (and therefore recognised) 'poor' areas. This report highlighted the urgent need to complement targeting of regeneration initiatives by area with targeting of the population groups considered most vulnerable to poverty.
Other possible indicators of local poverty include the fact that approximately 30% of the local population does not have a private phone (excluding mobiles). It has been further estimated that about 18% of the local adult population do not have a bank account and are considered to be 'financially excluded' as a result.
Although the area was once renowned for its cheap properties, house prices have continued to increase and as a result many first-time buyers, especially young people, are finding it impossible to buy property locally. Rented accommodation is extremely difficult to find, but lone parents (14.6% of households), numbers of whom are on the increase locally, are given some priority for Pennine Housing 2000 accommodation. Locally the number of young people becoming homeless is on the increase. Unfortunately it is a hidden problem since, unlike the big cities where the homeless sleep openly on the streets, the true extent of homelessness is disguised. Most local homeless young people either are dependent on friends to house them for a day two at a time on a sofa, or move to the cities or join the local traveller community.
The area has an exceptionally high percentage of properties without even the most essential indoor amenities (over 2.7% of households in the Calder Valley area lack an indoor WC compared to the West Yorkshire average of 1%). The number of households lacking amenities is over six times the average for pensioners living locally).
Much of the housing dates from the last century or earlier with an extremely high proportion being terraced properties. A characteristic of the area is its back-to-back terraces, which were built on the sides of hills so that both the top and bottom houses could be accessed from separate streets on the side of the hill. Another common style is the under-dwelling - flats built under the main house.
Public transport links through the 'floor' of the valley are generally good. Due to their central location along the valley, Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd act as the major transport junctions for the whole region and all public transport links through these centres of population.
Rail: There are stations at Hebden Bridge (on the outskirts of the town) and Mytholmroyd. Daytime services are supposed to operate half-hourly to Halifax, Bradford and Leeds in the east and Todmorden, Rochdale and Manchester in the west. Due to extensive delays and cancellations on a regular basis this is not currently as well used as it used to be.
An additional service, calling at Hebden Bridge only, is supposed to operate hourly between Leeds, Burnley and Blackpool (the latter service does not however stop at Mytholmroyd). Evening and Sunday services operate hourly.
Bus: Main road services are the subject of a Quality Corridor Partnership between local authorities and the local bus operator. Daytime services operate every 15 minutes to Halifax in the east and also every 15 minutes to Todmorden in the west, that is until 6.00pm where it will change to alternate every half hour between Rochdale and Burnley services to the west and also half hourly services for Halifax. Sunday services also operate half hourly. These services are very well used and are quite often crowded.
A local minibus network provides links between Hebden Bridge and the local hilltop communities of Blackshawhead, Heptonstall, Wadsworth, Cragg Vale. Services run approximately hourly throughout the day, dropping to two-hourly in the early evenings and on Sundays.
Connections between rail, road and local services are haphazard at best.
Personal Vehicles: Statistically 13% of rural homes in England are without access to a car, however of those households that do own cars, 50% have two or more (in comparison only 29% of car owners in urban areas have a second vehicle). Rural West Yorkshire is recognized as having the lowest percentage of car ownership in the UK (13% lower than anywhere else in the country according to the West Yorkshire Local Transport Plan) and that figure is reflected locally.
Car ownership continues to grow. Use of Public transport is the one of the highest in the country (14%) but disillusionment is causing many families on low income to purchase 'old bangers' (vehicles 10 years or older) to solve their transport problems. Geographically West Yorkshire also has the fourth highest number of summons for driving without insurance in the UK, and if compared to the number of summons per head of population it becomes the second highest.
The total amount of traffic flow on the A646 as measured in Mytholmroyd (on a 24 hour basis) was 15,817 with a prediction of 18,243 vehicles by 2005. Unfortunately there has not been a traffic flow analysis within Hebden Royd in recent years so there is no way to corroborate this prediction at present.
There are approximately 4,500 personal vehicles registered in the Hebden Royd area alone, of which 1,500 are second vehicles, which are primarily used for school runs, and shopping trips. This has led to problems locally including (a) a severe lack of parking space especially in and around the town centre, (b) increased pollution, (c) an increase in the number of shorter journeys undertaken by car (estimated at 34% for journeys of under a mile in comparison with the national average of 18%) - this is particularly common from those living in the valley sides where there are steep hillsides to traverse.