District council to invest £1million in initiatives to benefit Uttlesford residents

Uttlesford District Council headquarters on London Road, Saffron Walden.

Uttlesford District Council headquarters on London Road, Saffron Walden. - Credit: Archant

A £1million war chest of initiatives has been drawn up to benefit ­residents in Uttlesford.

Boosts to economic development, superfast broadband, roadside maintenance and car parking are all being lined up by Uttlesford District Council (UDC).

More schemes will follow, according to cabinet member for finance Councillor Robert Chambers, who told the Reporter the council was channelling the seven-figure sum into projects that help the most people.

He said: “We’re looking at things that will benefit the whole district so we can make the most of the £1million.

“The money has come from savings made by the council over the past few years.

“We have decided to use it now because we want to help the local economy by boosting business which, in turn, will help us because we now have to rely a lot more on business rates for income. It is a win-win.

“These are really positive steps which we hope will make a difference to the majority of residents.”

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About £130,000 has been earmarked to revamp the layout of Saffron Walden’s Swan Meadow car park to provide an additional 40 spaces.

A review will also be launched to look into the possible expansion of Catons Lane car park – an idea that would create 70 spaces by transforming the area used for parking in front of the football club.

Businesses are to receive shot in the arm with the help of a new discretionary rate relief scheme.

The primary objective is to provide incentives to small and medium sized businesses to set up or expand their operations in Uttlesford. It is hoped this will grow the local economy, create jobs and, in turn, boost the council’s coffers through increased business rates.

New powers under the Localism Act mean those that meet the criteria will receive 50 per cent discretionary rate relief in the first year and 25 per cent relief in the second year.

The policy, estimated to cost the council £166,000 a year, will continue to support businesses in rural communities such as post offices, shops and pubs.

A council-commissioned report will also look at the need for different types of business workspace in Uttlesford, such as offices or light industrial premises, and how this can be provided via either the private or public sector.

Essex County Council (ECC) and BT are working together to deliver superfast broadband to 93 per cent of the district within two years – leaving about 2,500 premises without coverage. UDC will look to cover the final seven per cent by partnering up with a radio broadband provider.

Finally, the district council will match a £50,000 ECC grant for highways projects and roadside verge maintenance.

The cabinet approved the initiatives at a meeting last night (Wednesday). The new discretionary rate relief scheme will begin from July 1.