THORNTREE frequently hits the headlines for the wrong reasons but people who are proud to live and work there are eager to set the record straight and defend the Middlesbrough suburb.

“People are happy to call Thorntree home,” said Linda Kime, an asset based community development worker at its council run ‘community hub’ which welcomes 250 to 350 locals though its doors each day.

She is rolling out a pilot programme, ABCD, to improve residents’ health by raising their self-esteem. A women’s boxing club has been set up which attracted 16 budding Amanda Coulson’s to its first class and a bootcamp is planned for overweight youngsters and their parents.

The hub is also home to a SureStart children’s centre and library, which delivers around 250 books to housebound readers across the town.

Clinics to help mothers stop smoking as well as theNatty Knitters group are held there, which creates little outfits for premature babies at James Cook University Hospital’s neonatal unit.

“We are looking at improving health and wellbeing for the long term,” she explained. “We're giving Thorntree a big shake-up. It’s the well-being aspect that can improve people’s health drastically without people even realising."

The murder of Simon Bennett, found on The Greenway, shone the spotlight on the 1940s housing estate earlier this month, and followed a damning report produced in 2013 by the End Poverty campaign.

It stated child poverty in the town has risen from 34 per cent in 2011 to 37 per cent in 2012 and in its worst-affected suburb, Thorntree, 61 per cent of its youngsters lived below the poverty line.

Peter Purvis who has lived on the housing estate for 52 years with his wife and fellow Labour ward councillor, Geraldine, praised the work of the community hub, which helps organise the annual Thorntree’s Party in the Park on Saturday, June 21.

“We do not have good employment rates in Thorntree because people here used to work at ICI, British Steel and Smith’s Dock, which have all now gone,” he added.

“If I hear anybody at council meetings say people in east Middlesbrough have low aspirations I immediately stop them and say “We have the highest of aspirations, we are desperate to live the extra five years that you take for granted.

“We have the highest of aspirations but the lowest of expectations because we have been denied so much for so long we do not expect any better.”