Levelling up our communities
Our ambition is to work with communities across the county to: reduce inequalities, regenerate high streets, market towns and neighbourhoods; improve infrastructure, jobs, skills and education provision; and help residents to achieve their ambitions for the places they live.
What funding will be used for
At the time of writing this strategy, we are awaiting the Levelling Up White Paper. Gloucestershire is ready to take advantage of this exciting opportunity and has already benefitted from the first wave of funding to the tune of £12.8m. We will work with local partners, building on their energy and ideas to improve high streets, market towns and local neighbourhoods and to help them to thrive.
While the majority of local people enjoy better health and quality of life than most of the country, we know this isn’t the case for everyone. In some of our neighbourhoods, life expectancy, job opportunities and quality of life is much poorer. Despite several decades of interventions, these problems continue. While some of our high streets and market towns attract tourists from across the globe, others struggle to survive. There will always be differences between our communities, which should be celebrated but we believe that no community should be left behind. We know that the key to success lies in focussing in on the strengths of a community, listening to local people and businesses, understanding what they want for their area, then working alongside them. That will be our approach.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us, that despite barriers in their way, these same communities have shown tremendous resilience, have mobilised armies of volunteers and grassroots support. Some of this, particularly in Gloucester City, is the result of an ‘Asset Based’ approach that begins with what is strong about communities, not what is wrong with them. We want to support and engage with our communities to help them realise their ambitions across areas including skills, education, employment and their health and wellbeing. There is growing evidence that this approach works.
In Matson, Robinswood and White City, for example, local residents have clearly told us what their aspirations and plans are, as well as what they need from local partners through a Community Partnership. Initially, we will work with the Partnership to understand how the county council can help to achieve the goals within their plan and to provide a joined up response to the issues it identifies. Actions already identified that we can take on include helping local people to develop skills and job opportunities, removing some of the barriers to economic activity, and working with schools to help them to improve the quality of local education.
From there, we will work with other areas where inequalities are greatest, starting with St Paul’s, St Peter’s and St Mark’s in Cheltenham and Cinderford West in the Forest of Dean. We will work with existing voluntary and community groups, the district councils, housing providers, other local public services and partners to engage local residents, supporting them to identify their priorities and solutions and share what we have learnt about what works.
This isn’t just about the neighbourhoods in which people live. It is also about the places where they work and shop and spend their leisure time. Therefore, we will also work alongside businesses and local councils to regenerate those high streets and market towns that are struggling to survive. We will help them to get funding from Government and elsewhere to help them adapt their offer, to regenerate and to repurpose space that is going unused. The first round of our Market Towns Fund has seen £385k allocated to more than 40 cultural and community events, with individual grants of up to £25k awarded to organisers of music festivals, summer fayres and Christmas goodwill evenings across all six districts of the county.
We will use the Levelling Up Funding we have already received to connect people from Gloucester, Cheltenham, Bishops Cleeve and beyond to jobs, employment and training opportunities in Gloucester Docks by improving sustainable transport links.
We will work alongside Gloucester City Council and Gloucestershire University to regenerate the former Debenhams building and bring economic and cultural activity back to Northgate Street and King’s Square.
Having been successful in the first wave of Levelling Up funding, we want to carry on that momentum through the lifetime of this strategy to create a lasting legacy across our county.