Sunday, February 26, 2006

House nouse

I've just spent the last couple of hours with Cllr James Hutchings from Edgbaston ward. He's been very involved with the work of Optima, which is a charity that's taken on the management, development and redevelopment of a large amount of former Council housing. Most of this is within Ladywood ward; for example, it includes the large high-rise blocks of Cleveland Tower and Clydesdale Tower at Holloway Head.

The important thing to note about Optima is that it was driven from the bottom up, that is, the idea came from the residents themselves. Helped by a large grant from the then-Conservative Government, Optima set about transforming the living space of thousands of people.

I must say, I was amazed when James took me in detail through the inception and fruition of the project, and showed my the very obvious, tangible and beneficial results on the ground. Old developments have been taken down and replaced with better quality housing. Most new developments have reintroduced streets in one form or another, which is something I consider essential for the coherence of a community. Other existing developments have been completely renovated. The story doesn't stop here though - there's lots of work still to be done. James's enthusiasm was infectious and I'm looking forward to being a part of this in the future.

We need more Optimas!

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