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Hopes for university in Ilford as regeneration of town centre kickstarts

PUBLISHED: 06:55 02 February 2017 | UPDATED: 08:23 02 February 2017

Redbridge Council chief executive Andy Donald, council leader Cllr Jas Athwal and cabinet member for regeneration Cllr Helen Coomb with the regeneration tote bags. Picture: Catherine Davison

Redbridge Council chief executive Andy Donald, council leader Cllr Jas Athwal and cabinet member for regeneration Cllr Helen Coomb with the regeneration tote bags. Picture: Catherine Davison

Archant

Redbridge Council is hoping to attract a university to Ilford town centre as part of the regeneration with Crossrail, it can be revealed.

Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal said he wants to reclaim Ilford as a “modern London town”, with thousands of new homes, jobs and restaurants. The Labour boss also explained he wants to tempt a university to open in the town centre, with students helping reinvigorate the area.

On Monday, business leaders, councillors, residents and community figures met in Redbridge Central Library for the launch of the Ilford Manifesto.

Cllr Athwal said big plans were in the pipeline: “We want to put Ilford back on the map.

“We want jobs for our local people, new businesses, restaurants and more.”

Ilford station is being revitalised with £7million of Crossrail funding, and the Greater London Assembly has awarded more than £50m for Ilford’s housing zone.

Under the tagline “Ilford for you, for me, for all”, Redbridge Council chief executive Andy Donald said he wanted the town centre to become a “cultural hub”.

Surrounded by arty black and white portraits of residents at Redbridge Central Library, in Clements Road, Mr Donald set out a vision for the future of Ilford.

He said: “We want to look at what will make Ilford great again. Six months ago, many of you came to the Kenneth More Theatre to discuss the future of Ilford.

“Rather than just focus on what is great in Ilford today, we want to discuss what we will do to make Ilford is great in five to 10 years.”

Ben Collins, Ilford Business Improvement District manager, said he was optimistic about future plans.

He said: “This is something that we have been pushing for a while. What the council needs now is a strategy that all the key partners can get behind.”

Mr Collins highlighted the upcoming redevelopment of the former Harrison Gibson store in High Road, which includes include 323 homes, retail and restaurant space.

The town centre has been designated a housing zone, which is expected to receive more than £500 million of investment by 2021.

Mr Collins said: “There are lots of positive things happening. Now there needs to be something that people can get behind.”

In December, Starbucks was opened in High Road – to much fanfare by younger residents.

At the manifesto launch, Kulwant Hara, who runs the coffee shop, said he was delighted to open in the borough.

“Ilford is an upcoming area, it is very busy. We have the highest footfall in the evening, so it’s encouraging to hear plans for more evening economy.

“Our expectations have already been exceeded and it’s proving to be very popular.”

Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal declared that Ilford is “open for business”.

He said: “I remember when Ilford town was a posh place to visit.

“We want that to be the case again, and we’re already on our way there.”


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