Web used to clean up neighbourhoods

SHAUN LOWTHORPE A website that names and shames councils into sorting out messy neighbourhoods is proving a hit among some Norfolk net surfers.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

A website that names and shames councils into sorting out messy neighbourhoods is proving a hit among some Norfolk net surfers.

Neigbourhoodfixit.com was set up with a £10,000 government grant by MySociety, the team which produced the Downing Street e-petitions and theyworkforyou.com, which monitors the activities of MPs.

The idea is that anyone with a problem types in the postcode and gives a short description which is then automatically listed on the website and e-mailed to the council until an update is provided to say it has been fixed.

And it appears to have had an effect, as one complaint of graffiti in Norwich registered on the site last month appeared to be dealt with on Friday.

So far, it has proved popular in the Norwich, Broadland and South Norfolk council areas. Postings include:

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March 8, St Crispin's Road, Norwich - "There is graffiti on the newly tiled

walls of the pedestrian underpass on St Crispin's Road."

March 12, College Road, Norwich - "Smallish but deepening pothole to left- hand side of the road, just past the middle, a few yards before the driveway of the house on the corner."

March 16 - "Flytipping at South Norfolk Council car park."

March 28 - Middleton's Lane, Hellesdon, near Norwich - "The road sign as you enter the roundabout has been defaced and the 30 speed limit has been changed to read 80."

March 28, Bell Road, Norwich - "A road barrier has been here for weeks now along with a discarded Christmas tree. Having recently moved into the area, it would be ncie to see this tidied up. Thank you."

April 12, Woodton, near Norwich - "Woodyard Square has a 'steep for Norfolk' slope which is sometimes difficult to negotiate over compacted snow. Could we have a winter salt/grit box so we

can grit the slope when it becomes a problem?

Website founder Tom Steinberg said he got the idea after seeing a set of phone boxes smashed up.

He assumed that somebody else would report it, but when he phoned his local council to check, he found nobody would tell him because complaints were treated in confidence.

"Councils across the UK do an excellent job of fixing local problems when they're reported by citizens," he said. "However, the model for handling the information is a system of doctor/patient-style confidentiality. A citizen who makes a report normally knows about a problem, and so does the council, but there is no general public way of finding out what has been reported or fixed.

"Given that the nature of public problems being reported is that they are public, this seems a strange situation.

"Neighbourhoodfixit.com opens up and democratises the process of discovering and reporting problems, so people can see what other reports have been filed locally, and can leave extra feedback and comments on the problems if they see fit."