Following the announcement that the UK’s GDP shrank by 20.4% in April – the largest monthly contraction on record – the Council has launched a detailed support package for local businesses and residents. As well as paying out over £40 million in grants to nearly 3,000 businesses and introducing a ‘rent holiday’ for businesses in Council property, the local authority is reimagining public spaces so its high streets are in the strongest position to start trading again. Waltham Forest has produced a High Street Recovery Action Plan detailing these proposals and is committed to rebuilding its economy around a green agenda, with the aim of a carbon neutral future.
The Council is also introducing a Rapid Jobs Brokerage service to help connect employers to local residents and provide practical support for those who may have recently lost their jobs, are at risk of being made redundant, or are self-employed and struggling. Increasing access to the Adult Learning Service will also help local people to boost their skills and employability.
To help businesses adapt to new challenges, the Council is providing a toolkit of support which will encourage residents to spend locally, and is expanding its business directory to showcase and promote the borough’s businesses and their services.
For our ambitious housebuilding programme, the Council has taken steps to ensure we mitigate against the impact of the Covid-19, detailed in the Statement of Intent for its investment partners. Technological innovations such as the UK’s first Virtual Planning Committee, where the authority approved 750 homes for The Score development in Leyton (projected to create 587 jobs) and introducing fast supplier payment turnaround to contractors and subcontractors to support businesses have been key to keeping the Council’s delivery programme on track.
The Council plans to accelerate homebuilding by bringing forward investment and sites to deliver over 700 new homes, 350 of which will be affordable. Approval was recently given by Cabinet to the preferred investment approach to regenerate the Avenue Road Estate, potentially delivering 550 homes.
Development plans will create thousands of jobs for the borough and investing in infrastructure is key to supporting our housebuilding plans. The Council will work with key transport providers, including Transport for London and Network Rail, to ensure local transport is safe and to enable social distancing. In addition, the local authority will continue to secure the investment needed to deliver upgrades to Leyton Underground and Walthamstow Central stations, reducing overcrowding and increasing accessibility.
Changes imposed by Covid-19 also impact our cultural sector, and the Council is ensuring it continues to build a legacy on the back of our year as the first ever London Borough of Culture. Planning permission has been given for the EMD Cinema redevelopment and the Council has launched our new Virtual Culture Programme, which has so far delivered over 40 events, with over 5,000 participants.
Councillor Simon Miller, Cabinet Member for Economic Growth and Housing Development, says: “For Waltham Forest to continue to be a successful place we need to maintain confidence for residents, businesses and investors so both our local economy and the people who live here prosper.
“With this challenge also comes opportunities – people will live much more of their lives locally, and we are well placed to be a place to live and work with everything on your doorstep.
“This Action Plan, with its intervention and support, will create an attractive offer where local people and investors make an active choice to use their spending power locally, motivated by the impact this has on making their area an even better place and supporting local people, many of whom are also local business owners.”