Cheltenham is known nationally as an affluent town, stemming from the Regency period. However, the western side has communities today which are among the 20% most deprived in Britain. Whilst this area has a growing number of privately owned homes, it contains the largest social housing estate in Gloucestershire. It was originally built as a council estate in the 1950s and 1960s to house people working for GCHQ (which moved to Cheltenham after World War II) and local companies, particularly those in the engineering sector.
Changes that took place over the following 30 years affected the estate and reflected changes in society in general. By the late 1980s the contrast between West Cheltenham and the rest of the town was evident. By the mid-1990s there was recognition that the area had become a serious issue for the town. This was heartbreaking for people living here whose families as recently as 50 years earlier had run farms, smallholdings, and orchards with streams running alongside. (*)
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 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,) were hired and produced their report in 1997.
The report identified the following priorities:
Housing and environmental improvements
Anti-social behaviour and crime
Access to jobs
Building up the community and education:
Improving services and facilities including play and 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.