Regeneration of town centres and housing estates is the key focus of the first Cabinet Meeting of the new Civic Year on Monday 21 June.
Town centre reports
A series of independent reports aimed at re-invigorating the district’s High Streets in the wake of Covid-19 have been prepared on Epping, Ongar, Waltham Abbey, Buckhurst Hill and Loughton High Street and Broadway.
Wide-ranging communication with local organisations, traders and communities informed the reports, recognising that each town centre has its own character, strength and challenges. They also take on board the Council’s pledge to become carbon neutral by 2030.
Encouraging residents to shop local
Cllr John Philip, Cabinet Member for Economic Development said:
Encouraging residents to shop local is a key factor in climate change and our aspirations to become carbon neutral. High Streets across the district are valued by residents and visitors alike and these reports provide a starting point for all the businesses and town/parish Councils that support them to come together and ensure they continue to thrive.
‘Click It Local’ introduced during the pandemic encourages people to shop locally and have their purchases delivered to their door in just one trip. It is proving very popular.
The reports focus on immediate action – with lots of physical work already carried out – to clean up, spruce up and invest in the retail centres. Waltham Abbey is one of the first town centres that has benefited from these works.
Looking at longer-term challenges the Council is seeking to create a partnerships approach involving town teams, made up of businesses, local people and parish/town councils to lead on big issues. A town centre projects manager has been appointed to create the partnerships and drive the regeneration.
Regeneration of Council estates
A greater focus on the wider community benefits of a holistic approach to planned maintenance and upgrade of housing on Council estates is being presented to Cabinet. Members are being asked to endorse a greater emphasis on the wider impact on investment decisions, working directly with residents and tenants to build healthy, happy, cohesive and resilient communities.
A pilot project is planned for the Limes Farm Estate and preliminary work has already begun with officers consulting residents on proposed works. A new Residents Association with block champions has been set up as a direct communication channel between the Council and residents living on the estate.
Holly Whitbread Cabinet Member for Housing said:
Regeneration and creation of a warmer, more connected place for residents to live is key, Initial discussions with residents include new tree planting, outdoor play areas and better signage and officers will continue to consult with residents throughout the 18-month project. Meanwhile several other estates have already been identified to benefit from this approach.
Communal lounges for sheltered housing schemes
Sheltered Council Housing for older tenants also features on the Cabinet agenda. Consultation with residents shows that communal lounges are an important feature so a plan focused has been drawn up to give them a make-over.
Members are being asked to approve a leasing scheme for furniture and fittings – through a registered social enterprise. This will enable enable sheltered housing schemes to be spruced up at no capital cost to the Council for fixtures and fittings and no cost to current tenants.
The Council will fund the decoration of each scheme based on the specification provided by the external design team and will lease new furniture over a period of five years – after which it becomes the property of the Council.
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