Information

The Background of HWNP and the Resource Centre

Cheltenham is an affluent town with a population of 110,000. However, in comparison with the town's overall wealth the wards of Hesters Way and St Marks, to the west of Cheltenham, are amongst the 20% most deprived in Britain. This is the area referred to here as Hesters Way. The area is mostly made up of the largest social housing estate in Gloucestershire and is larger than most of the County's towns. It was originally built as a council estate in the 1950's and 1960's to house people working for GCHQ (which moved to Cheltenham after WW2) and local engineering companies.

Changes that took place over the following 30 years affected the estate and reflected changes in society in general. There were three factors that concentrated deprivation in the area.

1. Owner occupation - as attitudes in society changed those who could afford to buy property did and moved off the estate. Of those who stayed a large percentage exercised their right to buy. This resulted in the most desirable properties (generally low-rise traditional family housing) being sold off. The least desirable properties were left in council ownership.

2. Changes in the labour market resulted in a reduction in demand for unskilled labour and unemployment rose significantly on the estate.

3. Of all council housing built on the estate half were flats or maisonettes with over 200 of the flats being single person dwellings. These were the properties where those most in need were likely to be housed.

By the late 1980's the contrast between this area and the rest of the town was evident. By the mid 1990's there was recognition that the area had become a serious issue for the town. Hesters Way Neighbourhood Project was set up in 1995. In 1996 the Borough Council, Cheltenham and District Housing Association (now Bromford Housing Group), Gloucestershire Housing Association and Hesters Way Neighbourhood Project commissioned consultants to look at the problems affecting the Hesters Way area, consult with local people and agencies and make suggestions to inform a regeneration strategy. With funding from the two housing associations PiEDA (Planning and Economic and Development Associates) consultants were hired and produced their report in 1997.

The report identified the following priorities:
Housing and environmental improvements
Housing management
Anti-social behaviour and crime
Building up the community and education
Access to jobs

Education
Improving services and facilities including play & leisure, health and transport. In particular the report recommended the establishment of a resource centre to provide facilities and a focal point for regeneration activity.

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