Willingdon Trees, Eastbourne

About Willingdon Trees

Background

Willingdon Trees is a large estate of 585 homes in Eastbourne, which includes a sheltered housing scheme, Croxden Court. It is a mixture of family houses and low rise blocks with 255 properties owner occupied with an increasing number purchased by ‘buy to let’ landlords. It is adjoined by a similar number of homes owned and managed by Eastbourne Homes, the local ALMO, with the overall area recognised as priority neighbourhood by the council and subject of a multi-agency Neighbourhood Management Partnership, led by Places for People on the council’s behalf. It is geographically isolated both from the surrounding community and wider amenities and has suffered from poor levels of community engagement.


The Challenges

It historically experienced high rates of crime and antisocial behaviour which, though these are now low and continuing to reduce, have affected resident perceptions of their neighbourhood and community, and resulted in a poor reputation within the surrounding area.

It has a good quality community centre at the heart of the neighbourhood, though the profile of use by the local community has historically been limited, and has benefited from significant Green Spaces investment through Places for People in Holly Park, a council owned open space at the heart of the wider neighbourhood.


The Solution

To gather residents’ views and foster engagement with neighbourhood management, quarterly Neighbourhood Panel meetings are held involving residents, Ward Councillors, Police, landlords and council staff.

The community centre remains the focus of a range of activities, despite significant pressure on local budgets, which are bringing more households into the centre regularly. The weekly Talk and Toddler group is now run by community volunteers, with support from 3VA, Eastbourne’s voluntary sector umbrella organisation.

Youth activities have been sustained, with two weekly evening youth sessions run by YMCA and East Sussex Targeted Youth Service and a Wise Up wellbeing confidential drop-in for young women. The East Sussex Targeted Youth Service have also delivered periodic mobile outreach and detached work to maintain service contact with young people not engaging in the weekly sessions.

The Trees Community Association have raised over £80K to fund an extension to the community centre, and are engaged with architects, users and stakeholders to develop revised designs and proposals for a community café, which are currently being discussed with Council.

A key community priority has been disabled access, and four drop kerbs have been installed in priority locations across the neighbourhood identified with a local disability group, with funding from the Hampden Park Area Panel and Places  for People, to improve access to the shop and community facilities at the centre of the neighbourhood for those with mobility issues.

To enhance the kerb appeal of the properties, pilot solutions developed in consultation with residents, including decorative render and community garden spaces, are now being replicated on tiled gable end elevations across the estate, which have suffered chronic damage issues caused by ball games and vandalism, with work due to start in the autumn.


The Result

Surplus per property continues to increase, from £3,770 in 2014/15 to £4,483 in 2015/16, representing an additional £235,290 surplus in 15/16 for the neighbourhood over 2014/15 figures.

Turnover has decreased significantly from 7.6% in 2014/15 to 3.0% in 2015/16. The neighbourhood is subject to a Local Lettings Plan negotiated with the council to increase the number of lettings to economically active households and sheltered properties previously in poor demand are now offered to a wider range of potential applicants.

Demand for all properties continues to improve, with overall re-let times reduced from 27 days in 14/15 to 15 days in 15/16.