Waltham Forest housing estate improvement scheme slammed

A scheme to spruce up housing estates in Waltham Forest has been criticised as a “piece of publicity” and a potential waste of money by one councillor.

Waltham Forest Council’s Proud Places programme will spend £200,000 a year for the next five years on improvements in and around housing estates.

Residents who want to see features like a new community garden, landscaping or better play spaces on their estate have until September 10 to apply for a slice of this year’s funding.

The council originally expected to choose how to invest this year’s money by the end of July, but the housing scrutiny committee heard the process is “taking longer than anticipated”.

Speaking before the committee on July 22, an officer said the goal was to “make sure the external spaces match the inside of people’s homes”.

They added: “Homes are so much more than the four walls people live in… there’s a lot of good that can come from this piece of work.”

Committee chair Saima Mahmud agreed, adding: “You can’t underestimate the impact even a flower bed can have on someone, particularly coming out of lockdown.”

However, Conservative committee member John Moss said he “appreciate[d] the goal” – but was concerned by the uncertainty around the timing of the scheme.

He told the committee: “If we are going to spend [£1million], we need something better than this.

“The best way to waste public money is not to manage projects properly. It appears here that we have magicked up some money to pay for this, but I thought we were struggling financially.”

He also questioned how the project was different from the borough’s Making Places scheme, which paid for art and cultural projects – and which he said “took many years” to come to fruition.

Making Places focused on public outdoor spaces, rather than the borough’s estates, and delivered projects like the Albert Crescent Long Table and the theatre in Higham Hill Park.

Residents who want to apply for improvements paid for by the Proud Places scheme should email [email protected] with the name of their estate and their ideas.

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter