Inside dumping ground town where crime is high along with house prices
Despite being one of the most deprived areas in the country, Sandwell has been named as the second most desirable place to live in the UK.
House prices have soared over the past decade, with the average property price jumping from £107,560 in 2013 to £199,445 this year. A study by Swift Direct Blinds revealed that there were 1,744 properties for sale in Sandwell on Rightmove as of October.
This makes the Black Country borough second in the 'UK Property Index' table, which ranks the most desirable places to live in the UK. However, Sandwell is ranked as the 12th most deprived local authority in England, according to a 2019 Government report.
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A more recent study also found that the borough, which borders Birmingham to the west, is the second lowest in the country for cost-of-living vulnerability. Despite these findings, residents and businesses in Oldbury, located in the central part of Sandwell, have mixed feelings about the area, Birmingham Live reports.
A shopkeeper has spoken out about the troubles he's faced in his store, including an assault from a customer. Karanjeet Singh, 33, who runs a convenience and mobile phone shop called Get In, said the area wasn't 'safe' and there has been long-running 'trouble' at his shop.
Mr Singh, who is also a Sikh priest and Indian classical music teacher, expressed surprise at the study's findings. He opened his shop last year on Church Street, just across the road from Sandwell Council House in Oldbury town centre.
Speaking to BlackCountryLive, he said: "It's alright but it is not like a very safe place because in my shop, I have had so much trouble. Since I started here, I have had troublemakers come into my shop, I have reported it to the council and the police."
Mr Singh, who moved to the UK from India in 2005 as a youngster, said 'fights' have taken place inside his shop and he's had problems with 'underage' customers.
He told of a terrifying encounter with a college student who thought he was a gangster, brandishing a large knife in his shop. In another shocking incident, he was hit on the head and turban with a bottle by a young troublemaker, despite his efforts to usher a rowdy group out of his shop.
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The attack was caught on CCTV and reported to the police, but Mr Singh said all he got was a crime reference number. "The police do nothing," he lamented, although he did note that there have been no incidents in the past four or five months.
But it's not just crime that's causing him headaches. He's also struggling with rising prices, which are hitting his customers hard. He believes small businesses like his are at a disadvantage compared to 'big companies' like McDonald's and Sainsbury's, which also have a presence in Oldbury town centre.
He added: "Customers find it more expensive. And electricity bills, council bills, water bills, all the bills are expensive and high. How is a normal shopkeeper meant to survive?"
As for Oldbury being a desirable place to live, Mr Singh had mixed feelings. "Before, it was a very nice area. Now it's not. If these issues are gone (the crime), it will be a good area. They have a bus interchange here, a lot of people come here and use this area."
A local shop worker, who chose to stay unnamed, disagreed with the survey. "No, absolutely not, I don't agree with the survey," she said. "Who would want to live in Sandwell? It is very unsafe, with crime, it is overcrowded, it has just gone downhill.
"There are no nice areas to shop, no safe areas, children are not safe outside, it is not safe to walk the streets. It's been forgotten, it's a dumping ground about and there is no policing whatsoever."
In response to the issue of crime in Oldbury, Inspector Wes Smith from West Midlands Police said: "We fully understand the impact of crime and anti-social behaviour on our communities and businesses in Oldbury town centre. This is why we carry out regular, visible patrols and also targeted operations to catch shoplifters, support retailers and offer crime prevention advice where appropriate."
* This article was crafted with the help of an AI tool, which speeds up Daily Star's editorial research. An editor reviewed this content before it was published. You can report any errors to [email protected]
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