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Opinion: Please don't view Stockton through just the 'Benefits Street' camera lens

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Opinion: Please don't view Stockton through just the 'Benefits Street' camera lens

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing

Opinion: Please don't view Stockton through just the 'Benefits Street' camera lens Opinion: Please don't view Stockton through just the 'Benefits Street' camera lens

By Angela Lockwood, chief executive of Stockton-on-Tees based North Star Housing Group

Did you know that Stockton-on-Tees claims to have the widest high street in England? Or that it possesses the oldest railway station structure in the world?

Did you know that the world’s first safety match was invented in Stockton-on-Tees by local chemist John Walker? His first sale of the product was made on April 7 1827 – some may consider him foolish for refusing to patent it.

Did you know “The Stockton and Darlington Railway” operated the world's first public railway to use steam locomotives, and the first driver of this 25 mile railway was none other than George Stephenson himself?

The town boasts a £4.6m international Tees Barrage White Water Centre, an important Durham University Campus, and exciting riverside redevelopment. And did you know that the local authority was awarded council of the year 2010, shortlisted in 2014 and won the Strategic Local Authority of the Year 2013 in the UK Housing Awards?

Stockton has a fantastic track record in urban regeneration, with real vision and a reputation for delivering transformational change. It’s a great place to live and work - I can vouch for that as a CEO of a Stockton-based housing association that has been proudly operating in the town for around 40 years. I could go on, but you get the picture.

The area is currently gripped with real and understandable concern about the filming of the new series of 'Benefits Street' in Kingston Road, Stockton. Whilst this housing estate is not owned by North Star, I share the real anxieties of the housing provider as to how social housing and tenants are likely to be portrayed, and the impact on people and communities. Not to mention the disruption to tenants who live in the area and are caught up in a media circus.

There is outrage from the local media, politicians and the general public, with concerns about the lasting negative memory people will have as a result of intense filming in a concentrated area of social housing, which no more accurately depicts Stockton than James Turner Street did of Birmingham – it’s a “microcosm”.

We also know there is very little we can do about the current situation, we live in a land of freedom and expression, which is is crucial in any democracy and arguably comes at a price – highly valued but not without its challenges.

In that context I trust the general public to keep perspective, and to not view Stockton through only one lens. I hope the people being filmed are not adversely affected, and once screened I look forward to concentrating on the delivery of the exciting Stockton vision, but most of all I hope the really good things about Stockton emerge.

Picture: Middlesbrough FC fans protest at Channel 4's decision to film 'Benefits Street' in Stockton-on-Tees during last Saturday's Championship game against Reading. Picture courtesy of the 'No Benefits Street' campaign which you can follow on Twitter: ‏@StocktonSaysNo

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