THE determined tenants of the Greatwood and Horse Close estate in Skipton are aiming to make 1998 the year they take charge of their future.

By summer the Tenant Management Organisation (TMO) committee will know whether or not residents want certain responsibilities taken over from Craven District Council.

In June or July the estate's community centre will turn into a polling station and tenants will be balloted to see if a locally-based management would be preferred.

Meanwhile a dedicated band of committee members is beavering away, formulating policies and training programmes in readiness for the day the TMO may take over.

If it does, responsibilities like repairs, letting agreements and tenancies on the estate could all be in the hands of those who live there.

Frances Burrows, chairman of the TMO committee, heads the team of voluntary pioneers who are all drawn from families living on the estate.

She said: "The main reason why it would be beneficial to tenants is that the members of the TMO live on the estate and know the problems they face. My sympathy goes out to Craven District Council because they have such a wide area to cover and running each estate well is a hard job for them. If we took over we would live on the spot and would be here constantly, living with problems and, hopefully, solving them.

"One of the biggest problems we would be looking at tackling is house repairs. Our feedback from tenants shows that this is the single biggest gripe. As a committee we could literally walk around the estate and see first hand where the problem areas are.

"At the moment the council don't get to know about things unless people ring and complain, and a lot of tenants think they are causing too much trouble if they call in."

An independent agency known as the Priority Estates Project (PEP) is advising the TMO committee on how to promote itself, and on what professionals it will need to employ should it get the go-ahead.

If the tenants vote to take on the TMO the PEP will then compile a report which would then be put forward as a recommendation to the Department of Environment, which has the final say on the matter.

Frances and her team have been inspired by other success stories up and down the country, like the Beechwood and Ballentine estate in Liverpool, which improved dramatically within 12 months of the tenants setting up a TMO.

Part of the ethos of the TMO committee is nipping problems like vandalism and disrepair in the bud: If a broken window is not fixed it won't be long before many more are broken around it.

Frances added: "The main purpose of all this is to hand back some pride to the estate and to make every individual feel as though they belong.

"We also need to get rid of the them and us mentality that can arise from the local authority managing the estate. The elderly see us as one of them, someone they can approach when things go wrong.

"We will obviously be employing professional staff, like a housing manager and administrators. A real advantage would be gained from taking on an on-site caretaker/handyman."

Greatwood owner/occupier and committee member Linda Brewing said: "We would like to get rid of the stigma of living on the estate. People think you are second class citizens just because you live here.

"But among the positive aspects of the TMO is the Youth Forum which it has helped set up, getting the younger people of the estate more involved with what happens here.

"That is so important because they represent the future of the area."

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.