Shap­ing our town for the next decade

Gloucestershire Echo - - LETTERS & OPINION -

WHAT will our town be like in 10 years? That was the sub­ject up for dis­cus­sion at Chel­tenham Con­nect’s break­fast event last Fri­day, with in­put from a panel drawn from across dif­fer­ent sec­tors of the town.

Nat­u­rally, the dis­cus­sion was widerang­ing. I was in­vited as a bor­ough coun­cil­lor and as the main chal­lenger at the next elec­tion to our MP.

The de­bate was very healthy. My in­put fo­cused on a vi­sion of a town that was pros­per­ous, green and healthy, with de­cent and af­ford­able hous­ing and good schools.

As a coun­cil­lor, I led moves to se­cure the dec­la­ra­tion of a cli­mate emer­gency.

We’ll be mov­ing to­wards sus­tain­able trans­port, more tree planting and re­new­able en­ergy.

We’ll also have to look at our hous­ing stock to see how we can make it more en­ergy ef­fi­cient. The scope of the work is huge and keep­ing every­body in town up-to-date with what’s go­ing on will be a big chal­lenge. We’ll need sup­port from other lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and the na­tional gov­ern­ment too, which was some­thing set out in the coun­cil mo­tion.

On hous­ing, we’ll be in­vest­ing £100mil­lion in good qual­ity homes. In an ideal world, some will be at af­ford­able rent, some at mar­ket rent and oth­ers to buy. The aim will be to have a model that sus­tains it­self, en­abling fur­ther in­vest­ment in more and more af­ford­able homes over time.

This is vi­tal work. If we fail to pro­vide the homes we need for our young peo­ple and fam­i­lies, lo­cal busi­nesses won’t be able to find the work­ers they need.

The panel dis­cussed ed­u­ca­tion too. It’s clear that lo­cal state schools need more money. The schools cuts cam­paign, run and re­searched by teach­ers, tells us that all but one school in our town is worse off com­pared to 2015. That’s not sus­tain­able, par­tic­u­larly with a ris­ing pop­u­la­tion.

On the health front there was agree­ment in the room that fur­ther cut­backs at Chel­tenham Gen­eral’s A&E depart­ment are un­ac­cept­able. But if we’re to avoid that out­come, that’ll mean a change of di­rec­tion in na­tional NHS fund­ing pol­icy. We’ll all be watch­ing closely. Coun­cil­lor Max Wilkin­son Oakley

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