DELIVERING PRACTICAL solutions to urban decline was the emphasis of this years AME annual conference, and there was no more practical solution than that offered by Croydon Borough Council divisional director for highways and environmental management Jim Brennan.
Brennan set out two community involvement schemes - 'Smarter streets' and 'Street champions' - to which Croydon has committed £3M over the next two years.
'We need the community to be involved in our schemes, to support us, to understand our problems, and to allow us to solicit some positive action, ' said Brennan. 'Engineers in the past have been nervous of public involvement, but now more than ever the time is right.'
Simplicity is the key to both schemes. 'Smarter streets' is based around a shopping list of street improvements offered to local residents.
With a £100,000 budget, each street in the borough is offered £500 to pay for small scale improvements ranging from new litter bins to street lighting enhancements and traffic calming.
'The challenge to residents is: Can you and your neighbours agree on what will make your street better? , ' explained Brennan. 'The only condition to getting the money is that there must be consensus.
'They are only small improvements, but hopefully they are important ones, ' added Brennan.
Alongside the improvements, the council is committed to a 'clean and green' blitz of graffiti, with the refreshed streets monitored by 'Street champions', residents trained by the council to act as front line contact.
The scheme will cost and estimated £60-70,000 to launch, with a total cost annually of around £170,000, but Brennan sees real value in it.
'Residents are a resource, and time is a valuable commodity, ' said Brennan.
'All time counts, be it making a call to report a problem, direct action to sweep a pavement outside a home or shop, or organising a group litter pick.'