Climate action, affordable homes, a more-connected Chelmsford - Lib Dem-led Council's two year report
Two years after adopting "Our Chelmsford, Our Plan", the City Council has reported on progress towards a greener, fairer and more-connected Chelmsford.
Commented Leader of the Council, Lib Dem Stephen Robinson, "When we took on the leadership of Chelmsford in 2019, we promised real action on climate change, affordable housing and stronger communities. We brought "Our Chelmsford, Our Plan" to full Council, to set targets for the council in all these areas, plus supporting the vulnerable, making sure our city is a safe and pleasant place to live, and helping people to be active.
"This report sets out what the Lib Dem-led Council has done on all those topics."
Delivering a greener and safer Chelmsford
This is about making Chelmsford a more attractive place, protecting the environment, ensuring communities are safe and creating a distinctive sense of place. It's also about encouraging people to live well, promoting healthy, active lifestyles and reducing social isolation.
- Declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency and developed a plan of action to make council activities net-zero carbon by 2030. Many of these actions - including introducing electric vehicles into the fleet, mass tree planting, and requiring all new developments to incorporate sustainable design features - are well underway.
- Planted over 31,000 trees already as part of a ten-year mass greening project across the district. This creates and connects more habitats for wildlife, boosting biodiversity and helping to capture carbon to address climate change.
- Launched the 'Love Your Chelmsford' website in 2020, a dedicated platform for environmental volunteering opportunities and advice for living greener.
- Continued the popular free Play in the Park programme for local children in 2020 and 2021, running all sessions in a Covid-safe manner.
- Launched new Greener Chelmsford Grants in August 2021, providing community funding to support climate action and to protect and enhance biodiversity locally
- Hosted the national Knife Angel monument in Central Park in September 2021, sparking vital conversations around knife violence and its effect on young people, and embracing positive outlets for creativity.
- Held the Love Your Chelmsford Clean-Up in September 2021, when staff and volunteers worked together for mass action on litter, graffiti and environmental crime.
- Led a successful joint bid for Home Office Safer Streets funding in November 2021, which is already being used in sixteen projects to make the Bunny Walks area of Chelmsford safer for all, particularly women and girls
- Held a White Ribbon Day of Action in the Bunny Walks on 25 November, when workers from the council, police, youth groups and other agencies carried out mutual work to make a difference to the area. This is the first event in a programme of educational workshops, outreach, improved infrastructure and training to tackle violence against women and girls.
- Removed John Shennan Playing Field from the Local Plan, so it can't be built on and remains a green area (including with mass tree planting) for local residents.
Delivering a Fairer Chelmsford
A fairer Chelmsford looks after the most vulnerable in society (in particular through housing for people who are homeless or struggling to afford their own home) and ensures a sustainable future for the next generation.
- Provided eight self-contained flats which will give intensive supported accommodation for people at risk of repeated homelessness.
- Introduced the Night Stop scheme to Chelmsford for young people who become homeless.
- Insisted on 35% affordable housing in all larger planning applications
- Developed masterplans for upcoming development areas that will deliver many more units of affordable housing in the coming years
- Buying 20 residential properties to provide more temporary accommodation. This means the council can put homeless families in proper houses, not bed-and-breakfasts, and saves taxpayers £85,000 a year in payments to private landlords.
- Provided accommodation during lockdowns for all 30+ people who were sleeping rough, with some Government funding provided for this for the first time under the 'Everyone In' scheme.
- Engage with some people who were at risk of long-term homelessness, providing support, so that many people who were sleeping rough at the beginning of the pandemic now have their own homes.
- Created the city's first Homelessness Forum, which brings many different partners together who work with people sleeping rough, from the police and NHS to charities and local businesses. This means information and resources can be shared, which is leading to better services and outcomes for people who find themselves on the streets.
- For the first time in many years, the 'Winter Project' - providing beds in church halls for people - should not be needed in winter 2021/22 due to the amount of better accommodation that has been provided.
- Agreed an outline framework for the new Waterside development, bringing long-derelict land at the former gasworks site into use once again and providing homes to meet demand.
- Progressed the Chelmsford Garden Community in north-east Chelmsford, which will be an exemplar development for creating healthy, sustainable, green places to live where people can lead great lives.
- Signed agreements on Beaulieu Rail Station with Essex County Council. The station is expected to be ready in 2025/26.
Delivering a more connected Chelmsford
This area is about bringing people together, empowering local people and working in partnership to build community capacity, strengthen communities and secure investment in the city. supports the creation of new jobs
- Launched City Life, a local, public news website, in March 2021, allowing Chelmsford residents to quickly and easily find out about news, actions and services from your city council - and ask questions too.
- Began holding meetings online and broadcasting them during 2020, which brought about more public attendance than in-person meetings. Unfortunately, the Government stopped councils from holding online meetings where decisions are made in spring 2021, but the council continues streaming those held in-person on Facebook as best as currently possible.
- Held the first ever public question and answer sessions with Councillors on Facebook Live in 2020 - two for the general public and one for businesses.
- Improved several children's play areas in Chelmsford, creating imaginative, inclusive places to play.
- Formed a diversity and anti-racism group, to ensure all sections of society feel that they have a stake in the community.
- Kept all council operations working efficiently during Covid. No changes were made to bin collections during 2020-21 and all services that were permitted by Government to keep running have done so as normal. Chelmsford was the only council in Essex to keep its customer service centre open throughout 2020.
- Processed over £52 million in grants to local businesses to help them through the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Appointed a contractor with Essex County Council for work in early 2022 to make Tindal Square a new public space in front of Shire Hall, to support local businesses.
- Pressed ahead with a new road, bridge and cycle paths to give better access to the Wharf Road area.