Crunch time for plan for budget food store
MAJOR plans to create a health and wellbeing hub featuring a pioneering budget food store in one of the country’s most deprived neighbourhoods in Runcorn could be facing a funding impasse.
At September’s executive board meeting, Town Hall chiefs mulled the options for Windmill Hill with two main options on the table and contingency plans in case the preferred schemes fall through.
They are due to return this month to consider another report examining the best way to proceed.
Under the most ambitious proposals, Windmill Hill children’s centre would be expanded to incorporate a Community Shop affordable food scheme; a large hall for would be created at St Berteline’s Church with a cafe, and neighbourhood revamp works would take place.
The full scheme is estimated to cost £4.5m, but a Halton Borough Council report has now warned ‘there are no funds to enable the build’ and the project would take nearly two years to complete. ●
A watered-down option would involve modifying the children’s centre to host the Community Shop and a wider range of activities for residents, with the works expected to cost £787,000.
Council officials have said that the other proposals could be added on in time, but warned that not going for the grander set of plans might prompt criticism from residents.
Contingency plans include locating the Community Shop at Upton Community Centre in Hough Green, Widnes.
Community Shop, which is a social enterprise that sells surplus food obtained from high street retailers at slashed discount prices with the aim of reducing food poverty, has been in talks with Halton Council for four years.
The Runcorn branch would be expected to create 13 jobs and membership for using the store could also be widened beyond Windmill Hill.
Windmill Hill is Halton’s most deprived ward and among the top 1% most deprived nationally, and healthy life expectancy is in the bottom 0.5%.
For women in Windmill Hill, healthy life expectancy is the 10th worst out of nearly 8,000 areas in England and Wales.
Five members of Halton’s executive board, the director of public health and Windmill Hill Cllr Pauline Hignett recently visited a Community Shop in Barnsley.
Cllr Hignett was impressed and said the fate of the proposals could now hinge on what residents want.
Cllr Hignett said: “It’s very important that the Community Shop goes forward.
“It’s for the residents themselves to say ‘yes’. It would be fantastic to have it on their doorstep but we will have to wait and see.”
Cllr Pauline Hignett