I AM very grateful to Kingston residents to have the chance to serve as Leader of Kingston Council after the recent local election. With our renewed mandate, I am determined that we will continue to improve our borough for our residents and businesses.

Among our priorities will be:
* to achieve a greener Kingston
* to place Kingston’s unique history and heritage at the heart of our regeneration as we provide the homes and facilities local people need and value
* to support our communities and businesses to thrive as we continue to recover from the pandemic – with a particular focus on our young people and most vulnerable residents

Providing the homes that Kingston needs is an essential part of the council’s plans for the next decade, and we are starting straight away. Around 2,170 new homes are set to be provided as part of the Cambridge Road Estate regeneration scheme in Norbiton and more than 940 will be council homes, allowing more local people to continue living and working in the borough. Additionally, we have the Small Sites programme which will see more than 100 additional council homes being built.

A top priority for the council will be to provide new state-of-the-art leisure facilities around the borough. Planning permission for a new complex to replace the out-of-date Kingfisher Leisure Centre is being considered this week and work to demolish the old building will start soon. Our plans include a new swimming pool in the south of the borough.

On the environment, we remain committed to the council becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and taking further steps to help reduce emissions locally. One fantastic example is our work with Thames Water to create the first district heating system powered by sewage as part of the Cambridge Road Estate regeneration. As well as powering homes on the estate, the aim is for it to provide heat to businesses and public buildings.

Other green initiatives we plan to continue include converting all the borough’s streetlights to energy-efficient LED and we will carry on planting more trees.

We remain committed to helping our businesses and communities recover after the pandemic. Our work to grow the vibrancy of our high streets will continue as we help them to diversify and encourage people to visit all parts of Kingston for the cultural, leisure and entertainment offer as well as the shopping.

The council’s new agreement with the John Lewis Partnership is set to help create hundreds of new jobs over the next 10 years by supporting the activities and growth of local businesses. It will see new affordable workspace at the Riverside and Creative Youth will animate the Undercroft as a cultural and creative hub and performance space.

Finally, we will also significantly enhance our education and care services across the borough. Our plans include to provide more mainstream school places, a new special school for children with additional needs in Chessington, a post-16 SEND campus and a new residential dementia facility in Surbiton.

These are all ambitious plans but we are committed to making Kingston the best place to live or work.