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  • Ongar Neighbourhood Plan

Is this the time for a Regeneration of the Shelley Estate?

The original Shelley council estate is now in mixed ownership, consisting of privately owned and social housing. However, the remaining council owned homes and shops have become neglected and run down over decades. Local green spaces including where children played football have been built on and other green space has become overgrown. Over the last 40 years the reduction in local employment and public transport availability necessitated an increased car ownership. Some residents are also expected to park local authority or commercial vehicles overnight or at weekends! The street scene is now dominated by cars and vans, causing broken kerbs, rutted grass verges and disharmony between residents trying to park close to their homes. Blocks of garages which are now too small for modern cars, have not been reconfigured, but are being redeveloped as more housing, which has exacerbated the parking provision problem. The initial estate with grass verges and glimpses through to the countryside is a distant memory in parts of the estate. Lack of safe places for children to ride bikes and kick a ball and the lack of any community hall seems to have caused pockets of antisocial behaviour. Drug abuse has also been on the rise. An imaginative Regeneration scheme for Shelley is long overdue to address these issues.

Ongar Neighbourhood Plan’s (ONP), soon to be enshrined in planning law, includes current urban design policies to ensure any housing development or enhancement schemes retain the local rural character, context and prevailing density and housing mix. This is supported nationally in Government policies or guides and with Ongar’s Design Guide (AECOM 2019). For example ONP sets parking provision with a minimum 2 car spaces per 2 bed flat or house (plus visitor parking); building heights are to remain low rise of 1 or 2 storeys, except around the shopping parade where it is 2 or 3 storeys; and density must be comparable with surrounding built up area. ONP’s policies also protect our green spaces within the built up area, essential because of the identified deficiency in our local accessible open space. Further policies prioritise additional sports and leisure requirements to accommodate Ongar’s anticipated population increase.

Last year Ongar Town Council (OTC) set up a Working Party to make recommendations for resolving some of the issues on the Shelley Estate, including for better community facilities and repurposing outdoor amenity space. Problems included: lack of parking provision, lack of open space, lack of community amenities with not enough for the youth, lack of natural surveillance, and antisocial behaviour and drug use. Lock downs during the pandemic have had an adverse effect on many families and accentuated the issues. Most of the solutions are beyond the Town Council’s remit but the appropriate authorities are being consulted.

Fortuitously, EFDC had started to focus on a programme to improve the social housing and amenities for its tenants in Shelley, led by Shelley District Cllr Bedford, who approached ONPCG last year to discuss proposals and opportunities. OTC’s Shelley Working Party is now involved. A preliminary public consultation was held in July outlining a possible scheme that would include a community hall and more parking. Discussions are ongoing.

EFDC is also part of Live Well, a well-being cross body working group, including various Essex CC departments such as Social Services, education and child development, NHS, Public Health England, and various charities. The Live Well working group has funding from Government to address the well-being of its most disadvantaged areas. For EFDC that is Paternoster ward of Waltham Abbey and Shelley. OTC Shelley working party representative has attended several meetings of the Start Well sub group. Last month Ongar News reported on the initiative to sow a wild flower meadow in Shelley as part of the group’s work.

Government Policies promote ‘healthy and safe communities’ including requiring that local ‘planning policies and decisions should plan positively for the provision of shared spaces, community facilities…to enhance the sustainability of communities and residential environments.’ ONPCG and OTC’s Shelley group expect to work more closely with EFDC Officers and Councillors relating to housing and community, and the Live Well group to ensure there is local input to both schemes with comprehensive public consultation on possible proposals, including before any detailed planning applications are made relating to land use or housing.

Look out for further information and make sure you ‘Have Your Say’ on improvements in your local neighbourhood of Shelley or contact me with your ideas or to be involved.

Mary Dadd

Chairman Ongar Neighbourhood Plan Community Group &

Chairman of Shelley Working Party of Ongar Town Council

Article in September 2021 Ongar News

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