Blooming marvellous: making estates great again

Published: Wednesday, 1st July 2020

Oxford City Council is set to start work next week on four projects making improvements to council estates as part of its Great Estates programme.

Great Estates works with tenants to identify and make improvements to blocks of flats and communal areas. In the last four years the council has invested £1.2 million a year on making great estates and is planning on spending an extra £0.75 million on top of this in the remainder of 2020/21. The four schemes mark the resumption of the programme following lockdown and will involve work at Morris House, Barns House, 54-112 Barns Road, Wolsley and Riley House.

All four projects will be carried out by ODS, the council’s direct services company that operates like a social enterprise.

Making estates great can include upgrading doors to blocks, creating new communal outdoor spaces and making a neighbourhood safer by designing out anti-social behaviour. Each scheme is unique as it is designed in consultation with the people who best know what they need – residents themselves.

Work will begin first at Morris House on 6 July. This project will take around four weeks and involves the installation of high-security Warrior doors and improvements to an outdoor communal area. This will be revamped by rendering external walls, resurfacing the entire area and installing new seating and planting – including raised beds where residents will be able to plant their own herbs and vegetables. The seating will allow people to maintain social distancing and includes a partitioned area for extra privacy with low fencing made from recycled uPVC.

The second project at Barns House will bring a neglected walled area – once used for drying clothes – back into use as a space for relaxation. The walls will be transformed with half-rendering and trellised areas and a fob access gate installed. A walkway will lead to level decking and the whole area will feature new seating and planting – again, this will include space for herbs and vegetables. Work is expected to start in mid-July.

The council is still consulting residents about design plans for the two remaining schemes at 54-112 Barns Road and Wolsley and Riley House – a process that has taken longer than usual for all projects because of the coronavirus lockdown.

The 54-112 Barns Road project will feature new Warrior doors on all blocks, the replacement and relocation of sheds to make more space for a redesigned garden area and secure fencing with fob access gates. ODS aims to be onsite in August. Work at Wolsley and Riley House will involve opening up and redesigning communal garden spaces and making the neighbourhood safer through improvements to fencing and boundary areas.

“Great Estates works on the principle that tenants and leaseholders on our estates deserve access to safe, high-quality communal spaces and are best placed to tell us what will improve their neighbourhood. I’m really pleased that we are now resuming work on making our estates great and investing an extra £0.75 million in the programme this year.

“Every neighbourhood is unique and Great Estates aims to change the look and feel of our estates by delivering the improvements residents tell us they need. This could mean opening up spaces by moving bin areas and sheds, improved security and making over garden areas with new paths, seating and planting – or indeed, all of these. If you’re a council tenant and would like to suggest improvements to your neighbourhood, please contact your tenancy management officer.”

Councillor Mike Rowley, cabinet member for affordable housing and housing the homeless

Council tenants can find contact details for their tenancy management officer using our website search.