Weston Focus

News for Weston-super-Mare Central Ward from local councillors Mike Bell and Robert Payne : serving you on North Somerset Council and Weston-super-Mare Town Council Learn more

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Council must deliver health centre and community facilities alongside housing

by mikebell on 16 August, 2018

Weston-super-Mare town centre is undergoing a period of change and renewal, set in motion by North Somerset Council’s strategy for town centre regeneration.

A major programme of improvements is well under way in the town to further develop the town centre as a great place to live, learn and spend leisure time. At least in theory.

Building good quality new housing in the town centre will attract people to come and live in the town, boosting the demand for shops and services, creating new jobs.

Weston-super-Mare Central Ward’s Liberal Democrat Councillor Mike Bell, writes about the importance of tackling inequality and delivering community infrastructure improvements alongside other regeneration projects: “North Somerset is generally not a deprived area and is ranked 121st in the country in the latest Index of Multiple Deprivation. However, we are the district with the third highest levels of inequality in the country – which is the gap between the most and least deprived areas.

“I’ll say that again, North Somerset is ranked as the third worst for our inequality gap – that puts us on a par with Sheffield, Newcastle, Bradford and Leeds. Not company we would normally expect to keep.

“Our neighbours in the West of England fare far better – Bristol is relatively poor but is ranked 22nd for the inequality gap, Bath & North East Somerset is ranked 116th and South Gloucestershire 167th.

“My ward of Weston Central overall is in the most deprived 2% in the country. The Alfred Street area is in the bottom 1%, the Grand Pier area in the bottom 2%, the Ellenborough Park area is in the bottom 7%, the Stafford Road area in the bottom 10% and the Clarence Park area in the bottom 15%. For health inequality, Weston Central Ward is ranked the worst in North Somerset, the same for employment.

“What is more, this is not a new phenomenon. Most of my ward was deemed relatively more deprived in 2015 than was the case in 2010; and more deprived in 2010 than was the case in 2007. The trend lines are going the wrong way. We have a high inequalities gap and it is getting worse.

“The Conservatives have led North Somerset since 2007 but throughout most of that time the inequalities gap has deteriorated. Whatever is being done is not working and things need to be done differently.

“There is much good work being done to improve private sector housing conditions, address substance abuse and develop a stronger community. The regeneration plans for Weston town centre and investment supporting that are very welcome. However, I am concerned that this is not being delivered in a joined up way that focusses on supporting community health and wellbeing.

“Weston Central’s health, education and community networks have never been well supported compared to other deprived communities in North Somerset, and there is a risk that, despite some positive signs, this situation will not improve.

“Weston Central does not have a fit-for-purpose Children’s Centre, presenting barriers to outreach, engagement and partnership working with family support teams, health visitors and others.

“Weston Central does not have a dedicated health facility that can minimise referrals to GPs and the hospital, support healthy lifestyles and promote self-care.

“Weston Central does not have dedicated community engagement and development professionals that can help to strengthen cross-sector links, better coordinate the positive things that are happening or, with residents, drive forward improvements.

“These are all weaknesses that help to show why Weston Central’s inequalities have got worse, not better. But they are opportunities that can be seized upon to make progress. But for the potential to be realised there is a need for investment and for decision-makers to show that what is professed to be a priority, really is one.

“Ultimately, goodwill and warmly worded reports can only do so much, there also needs to be positive interventions to back them up. At a time when the council is investing millions in town centre improvements, from roads to the Italian Gardens to the Sovereign Centre to housing developments, we really must see the community and health infrastructure improvements needed alongside.”

What do you think? Let us know your views and priorities for the town centre area.

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