Panel gets grilling on wide range of topics at first local forum

Cllr Wes Streeting and Cllr Jas Athwal at the first Redbridge local forum

Cllr Wes Streeting and Cllr Jas Athwal at the first Redbridge local forum - Credit: Archant

Building houses, step-free access at stations, fly-tipping and even bee-keeping were just some of the topics raised by residents at the first Redbridge Council local forum last night.

It was a full house at Redbridge Central Library for the inaugural event.

Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal and opposition leaders Cllr Paul Canal (Con, Bridge) and Cllr Ian Bond (Lib Dem, Roding) were joined by cabinet member for planning and regeneration Cllr Helen Coomb and director of children’s services on a panel which received a two-hour grilling.

Chairing the meeting, Cllr Athwal took questions from residents on a wide range of issues.

Asked about the council’s pledge to build a new swimming pool before the next election, Cllr Athwal said there would be an “announcement coming”.

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“The swimming pool will be a reality soon,” he said.

“I’m not going to jump the gun but this is not an aspiration, this is an absolute fact that a swimming pool will be delivered in the near future.”

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Residents also raised questions about business growth in the area, in particular Ilford town centre.

Cllr Athwal said the council had meetings lined up this week with Crossrail, Transport for London and the Mayor of London to look at business regeneration in Redbridge.

“We have a major part to play,” he added.

Cllr Canal said while the borough had one of the highest rates of start-up businesses, it also had a high rate of failures.

But the council faced criticism from residents who claimed they had trouble getting the authority to deal with complaints.

Cllr Athwal said the authority needed to act more like a business and vowed to “get to the bottom” of any problems.

Questions were also raised about the council’s controversial local development plan, which has put forward areas for potential development in the borough.

Cllr Coomb confirmed a public consultation over the proposals – which include four options – would begin on November 7.

One resident said Oakfields playing fields, one of the sites earmarked for potential development, should not be “under threat” as the council owns it.

But Cllr Coomb said she would not comment on it.

“It’s not me making the decision,” she told the meeting.

“There will be ample opportunities for people to have their say.”

For more reaction to the meeting see tomorrow’s Ilford Recorder.

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