On Thursday 15 July, Kanda was pleased to host a webinar on regeneration in Essex, specifically looking at how we can build back better.

It was an interesting opportunity to hear more from Cllr Lesley Wagland (Cabinet Member for Economic Renewal, Infrastructure, and Planning at Essex County Council) and Cllr Alex Bright (Shadow Cabinet Member for Environment & Planning at Southend-on-Sea Council) in conversation with Emma Benson, our Associate Director at Kanda who leads on our work in the East of England.

One of the key themes that really came out during discussion of every topic was the importance of stewardship – if we want to build back better, we need developers, residents, and councils to work together and be stewards of new developments in the county, taking an active role in creating communities that benefit both existing and future residents. The topics covered are summarised below, but we will also be delving deeper into some of these conversations in the coming weeks during our calendar of webinars. Please email rsvp@kandaconsulting.co.uk if you would like to keep up to date with our programme!

Social and physical infrastructure

Providing the infrastructure improvements that residents want to see was highlighted by both Cllr Wagland and Cllr Bright as a key consideration for developers. However, they were realistic about the capabilities of developments to deliver these improvements as early on as many residents would like to see them.

Cllr Wagland suggested using more joint ventures to deliver new infrastructure improvements and moving away from the piecemeal approach that we often see. She highlighted that neither the private nor public sector can deliver these major upgrades alone.

Quality of housing and place

Both panelists explained how the quality of new homes and places is a key consideration that has only been reinforced by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. A joined-up approach is essential to providing quality places where people enjoy living, and Cllr Wagland highlighted the Beaulieu development near Chelmsford as an example of a development that has been considered as a whole from the outset, unlocking further new homes in the process.

Greenbelt development

There was much discussion about the impact of the greenbelt across Essex and how this skews development in the county. Cllr Bright was keen to stress the function of the greenbelt, not only as a landmark and area of beauty but as a buffer for development between neighbouring settlements.

Political volatility

There was some discussion about the impact of other political groups, and in particular residents’ associations, which now have representatives on councils. As a Shadow Cabinet Member in a hung council, Cllr Bright stressed the difficulties politicians face in a Council where the administration is comprised of many smaller groups, and one or two missing members can completely change the outcome of a vote.

Cllr Wagland questioned whether these groups will be able to become the main opposition to Conservatives in Essex, highlighting the problems you can encounter when promising things you can’t deliver. Although she hastened to add that her political crystal ball gazing hasn’t always been spot on in the past!

Sustainability as an issue of value

Cllr Wagland put across a very convincing argument for sustainability to be considered as an issue of value by all.

She felt many people do not understand the importance that sustainability may hold in the future. Although being carbon neutral might not drastically impact the value of your new home now, who’s to say that this won’t change in the future? We’ve seen it happen before – Cllr Wagland wages that carbon neutrality could be the new superfast broadband, making homes that don’t hit the mark much more difficult to sell.

If you would like more information about how Kanda can support you across Essex and the East of England, please contact Emma Benson to arrange a chat. If you would like to keep up to date with our events programme, please do email rsvp@kandaconsulting.co.uk.

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