Great news that we can continue to retrofit our Council homes in Exeter
Published: 23 March 2023
I’m very pleased that we have appointed Bindu Arjoon as our new Chief Executive from 1 April. Bindu is a very experienced person to take on the role of Chief Executive and lead us into the next phase of where we want to be.
Times remain challenging for everyone – for all of our residents, our businesses and for the Council and we still have a lot to do. I’ve previously mentioned some of the challenges facing the finances of the Council, and I’m pleased that we managed to set a balanced budget for the year going forward. But there is still much to do.
I was pleased that we have been able to progress the possibility of reinstating a replacement Mallison Bridge at Exeter Quay, in partnership with the Quay and Canal Trust and Devon County Council, as part of the Exeter cycling and active travel plan. We now await a decision on whether our joint funding bid to Government will be successful.
The Council is a major property holder in the city, maintaining assets on behalf of us all, and we have a major programme going forward. We need to do repairs that are essential, together with projects that are essential. We have a further bid into Government for the decarbonisation of the Riverside leisure centre roof, which is much needed, together with the RAMM.
We are also committed to improving facilities in Wonford for residents to bring forward, in collaboration with the local community, facilities for young people, the community and leisure.
I recently learnt more about Exeter Live & Move, our project with Sport England. Together with partners in the city we recently walked around Newtown, to see how critical it is to design ways of allowing better cycling and walking access into the city centre and to St Sidwell’s Point.
I have arranged a meeting with local councillors to take this forward. The Live and Move project is also city-wide, and we will be keeping communities informed of the progress that is made.
It was excellent to finally get a spade in the ground at Vaughan Road in Whipton for the start of a project to create 35 much-needed new council homes on this site. This is the first of three phases which will eventually see a total of 91 new homes brought forward.
The first phase of 35 new council homes will be built to a super energy efficient standard and will be placed in our housing revenue stock for people in Exeter.
We’ve also just heard that funding has been secured for 245 more Council houses in Exeter to be fully retrofitted over the next two years to improve their energy efficiency. The programme is designed to save residents money on fuel bills and lower the city’s carbon footprint by reducing carbon emissions.
The Government’s Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund and Home Upgrade fund has provided a grant of £1.494m, which the Council’s Housing Revenue Account (HRA) will match fund with £1.998m.
This is great news and means we can continue our retrofitting programme which has so far seen more than 400 Council houses transformed into low energy homes.
Housing continues to be an emotive subject. We need housing in Exeter and the demand is there. However, we need to ensure that it is built sensitively and that it meets the sustainable needs of our communities. This is why the Exeter Local Plan is so important. We held a consultation on this last year and it was great that more than 4,000 responses were given. There will be further consultation later this year.
On the subject of building, I recently had the opportunity to visit Exeter College’s excellent construction training site at Sowton, and it was great to see the number of young people engaged in apprenticeships. Construction is so important and those skills are very much need locally.
There was a big emphasis on retrofitting homes to make them low energy, and these skills will be very much needed in the future. I applaud the work that Exeter College is doing in training our young people and equipping them with skills for the future.
It’s local election time again soon and the date is easy to remember this year – to quote from Star Wars, May the Fourth be with you! On a serious note, the Government has introduced a change this year that means everyone will need to bring photo ID with them to vote, like a driving licence, passport or bus pass. This is compulsory and it is important everyone is aware of the change. If you don’t have photo ID the Council can help to provide it, all the details are on our website.
Finally, I must congratulate Exeter Chiefs on their Premiership Rugby Cup win. It is great to see that the Chiefs are still collecting the silverware and I wish them well in their forthcoming European matches.
It’s been mixed fortunes for the Grecians, but we all wish them well for the rest of the season, in particular the forthcoming local derby with Plymouth which I’m very much looking forward to.