Shropshire’s Evolving Housing Landscape
Shropshire, like every county, faces challenges with providing the right mix of housing for its residents. So how is Shropshire Council supporting residents with housing at all stages of their life, and how can we maintain our county’s vibrant communities?
We caught up with Jane Trethewey, Assistant Director of Homes & Communities at Shropshire Council, to find out.
Tell us a little bit about your role?
It’s a new role that’s been created to bring all of Shropshire Council’s housing teams and activities together. People tend to think our engagement with housing is just about running council housing, but that function is managed on our behalf by STAR Housing and we provide lots of other housing services as well.
We have teams that provide housing advice and support with homelessness and temporary accommodation, we have support for affordable housing development initiatives like Right Home, Right Place, and we have a regulatory services team who deal with private sector housing standards and empty homes.
Beyond that, we have Cornovii which is a new housing company that’s been set up to deliver new homes that address the housing need in Shropshire that isn’t being met by developers.
So my role is about bringing all these teams together to develop a more coherent approach to housing issues across the county.
The other part of the role incorporates culture, leisure and tourism services, and thinking about how we can use those facilities and services to focus better communication with communities throughout Shropshire, both urban and rural, and work more closely together to ensure these reflect what people need.
What are your main areas of focus?
I’m particularly interested in how we can work more closely as a housing team with Adult Social Care and Children’s Services to explore how we provide the right homes for people at all stages in life.
On the non-housing side, I’m really keen to explore how services like leisure centres, libraries, archives and museums can connect with and serve their communities more effectively. We’ll shortly be running a review of Shropshire’s library services, and we’re looking more closely at leisure centres to think about how they can work in partnership with the communities they serve.
Another focus is tourism, which is a really interesting area for Shropshire as it can be considered both an opportunity and a threat. Tourism brings a lot of wealth into the county and it’s very important to our local economy, but we also want to protect what makes Shropshire so wonderful and make sure our wild places aren’t overwhelmed with litter or traffic. Getting the balance right is vital.
What do you think makes Shropshire a great place to live?
I live in Shrewsbury and one of its joys is simply the amount of activity that goes on. Festivals, events, fayres, markets, music and theatre productions. These are the kinds of things that bring delight and variety to life. In fact, Shrewsbury was recently voted as one of the happiest places to live in the UK.
Bishops Castle is another great example because they have very active community groups who care about their town and are involved in lots of community support programmes like fundraising and volunteering. Those are the kinds of things that make a place special.
Since the pandemic started, there’s been a growing appreciation of the fact that we live in a county that’s full of green spaces and open countryside.
As the appeal of big city living has begun to be questioned, we’re seeing evidence of property sales in Shropshire becoming more rapid; sellers are now more likely to achieve a figure closer to their asking price, and I think that reflects the appeal of Shropshire as a base for a great quality of life.
How will you aim to address the need for more housing options for older residents?
I’m keen to develop a menu of housing solutions for older people in Shropshire; people want to be as independent as possible for as long as possible, and you can do that if you’re in the right home with the right facilities, the right amenities nearby and the right support available.
Part of this work will include creating more bungalows, which is something few property developers do because of their large ground footprint. For older people though, and particularly if they develop mobility challenges, bungalows are a really useful property type for people to live happily as they age.
Retirement developments providing flats are also important. They often provide a safe and convivial space where residents can live independently, without feeling isolated because of the range of opportunities for social interaction.
Across a broader age spectrum, we need to look at how we support care leavers and route them into accommodation that supports their needs, whether these are younger people coming from Council care, adults coming from social care or hospitals, or older people looking to live more independently.
What are some of the other challenges younger people face with housing options?
Younger households may sometimes struggle to get a foothold in their community. It may be that they need access to affordable or entry level housing to buy or rent, and these could be single people, couples or young families.
Young people are so important for our communities because they’re the life force of our county. Many of them work in our rural economy – be it agriculture or tourism or hospitality. They support their town or village and are economically active in their area, helping to keep local shops, pubs, schools and other local services open.
We need to ensure there’s appropriate accommodation so that people can live close to their place of work, and we’re aiming to achieve that through various initiatives, including Right Home, Right Place.
I’m especially interested in the private rental sector and how that can be grown with a good quality offer to support younger households who may want to be mobile so that they can move to take up job opportunities.
What do you think are the ingredients of a vibrant community?
Thinking from a housing perspective, having a broad mix of residents in a range of property types and tenures is important, as it nurtures the things we’ve talked about above.
But when you combine that with good infrastructure and local amenities, a good array of shops, venues and community spaces that enable self-expression and local connections – which could be based on education, faith, the outdoors, or culture – that’s when a community really begins to thrive.