Rotherham West's social frontiers, or why Masbrough needs its community centre reopened

A map drawn by a participant in the Life At The Frontier study, showing the "pockets" of people in Rotherham WestA map drawn by a participant in the Life At The Frontier study, showing the "pockets" of people in Rotherham West
A map drawn by a participant in the Life At The Frontier study, showing the "pockets" of people in Rotherham West
INTERNATIONAL research into how physical boundaries can hinder social integration has recommended a community centre to help Masbrough and Ferham.

The Rotherham West council ward, which stretches out to the Sheffield border, was selected as one of the case studies in European project Life At The Frontier.

It looked at how physical barriers like dual carriageways can prevent communities from mixing – and reported a “scarcity of places” here for adults to socialise in the way children of various ethnicities can make friends at school.

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Rotherham case study lead Dr Aneta Piekut the interviewees noted “wonderful” sites at the Kimberworth end of the ward – such as the library and Chislett Centre – but these were not felt accessible to most in Masbrough and Ferham.

Exterior of Masbrough and Thornhill Community CentreExterior of Masbrough and Thornhill Community Centre
Exterior of Masbrough and Thornhill Community Centre

She added: “We were surprised to see how many community organisations are developed in the area despite the lack of physical spaces to meet.

“We feel like there's wonderful potential and great news for the council that there’s a lot of people who would be keen to develop further some of the work that was abandoned because some people had left.”

The research was commissioned by Norwegian organisation Nordforsk and the Economic and Social Research Council. At Rotherham West, this involved four workshop events and interviews with 23 residents and 11 experts.

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Project director Prof Gwilym Price said: “One of the things that came out of this very strongly was the lack of a youth centre, and place for people to connect. Ferham has a nice park, one person says, but Masbrough has nothing.”

Cllr Ian JonesCllr Ian Jones
Cllr Ian Jones

The findings were presented at an RMBC meeting in December, with recommendations to create a community centre and encourage new community leaders.

Cllr Ian Jones, Rotherham West ward member, noted how the area had lost many leaders during the pandemic – mirroring a time in the 1960s when many left.

He added: “The part about the barriers is absolutely spot on. The road junctions, you can name from that point that would be an eastern European area, from that point it’s predominantly British Asian.

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“It’s about re-integrating all these people together, but especially as during Covid we lost a lot of our community leaders.

“So trying to remake these links is probably one of the hardest things we can do. You’re talking a generational thing to do it.”

Cllr Jones said the areas further west from Rotherham town centre had been planned with more amenities and different types of housing to suit young and old.

He added: “In the Kimberworth and Richmond Park areas, they started to realise that people wanted what we probably now talk about as cradle-to-grave communities, where everybody starts off in a single flat, moves to a two-bedroom house as their family expands and we’ve got bungalows for old age people. They also have their own community centres. It was a typical council estate rebuild.

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“That didn’t take place in Masbrough because essentially, we were still in the old Victorian terraced housing. The infrastructure down there was never developed.

“There is a community centre at Masbrough, but, again, because of Covid, it has been shut down and transferred over to an outside organisation.

“That will be brought back into use but that’s taken nearly five years to negotiate. That’s five years people have had nowhere to use.”