Essex Housing has started work on a 26-home regeneration of taxpayer-owned land that has been empty for 12 years.
Contractor Duncan Cameron Hutchinson Ltd has started work on 15 two-bed and 11 one-bed apartments, eight of which will be affordable, on land in Waltham Glen, off Gloucester Avenue, Chelmsford.
Essex County Council, in collaboration with Essex Police and the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, has been working with the Moulsham Lodge Community Trust (MLCT) to find the group a permanent home ever since its community centre in Waltham Glen closed in 2005.
In March last year, the Council bought a former police station nearby before handing a long-term lease to MLCT, putting an end to years of uncertainty and freeing up the Waltham Glen site for redevelopment.
Cllr Sue Lissimore, Cabinet Member responsible for housing, said: “This is a wonderful example of how Essex Housing is striving to build the homes our county so desperately needs, while regenerating a taxpayer-owned site that has lain empty for 12 years.
“We don’t want to see public sector land drifting into disrepair. So this is a fantastic solution that has not only safeguarded the long-term future of this important community hub, but also freed up surplus land for more homes which in turn will boost the economy.”
Builders aim to complete the work by summer next year, with apartments on sale from early 2019.
Cllr Mark Springett, a Chelmsford City Councillor and CEO and Chairman of MLCT, said: “This is a welcome end to years of uncertainty, both for the vacant site and for the community organisation that rose from the ashes of the derelict and demolished community building.
“With the final signatures still wet on our 99 year lease, it is perhaps poetic that the redevelopment of the old site has started in the same month.
“Residents were very complimentary of the development in the consultation and I’m pleased affordable housing is included, which is such an important addition when house prices here are well above the national average.”
Councillor Dick Madden, the county councillor covering Moulsham Lodge, has fought for the community centre's long-term future.
He added: “I’m really proud of Essex Housing’s unique and collaborative approach which has brought key public sector partners together to find a permanent home for this vital community hub, as well as freeing up land for new homes.”
Essex Housing is also currently working on another 32 apartments at Goldlay Gardens, Chelmsford, and six homes in Norton Road, Brentwood, with 379 more homes in the pipeline, 194 of which already have planning permission.
Some 180 are dedicated to older people to help them live independently for longer.
Approved plans include 60 Independent Living properties at a vacant site in Hillhouse, Waltham Abbey, which will include a new swimming pool, leisure centre and GP surgery, while 60 homes are planned at a former NHS site in Coppins Court, Tendring, which closed eight years ago.
In November last year, Essex Housing released CGI artist impressions of plans to restore and redevelop Colchester’s Essex County Hospital into more than 100 homes, once health services relocate to a £6.4m centre.
Meanwhile, feasibility studies are also underway at another 22 sites countywide.
Michael Brock of Duncan Cameron Hutchinson Ltd added: “We are delighted to be part of this exciting new development. We're a local building firm with strong roots in the community so a project of this type, with its focus on affordable housing, gets to the very heart of what we do.
“We are sure that by working in collaboration with Essex Housing we can build homes that will provide a significant boost to the local area.”