The Welsh Government has today (Monday 21st September) placed Bridgend and three other Counties under local lockdown from 6pm tomorrow (Tuesday 22nd September) due to the significant rise in coronavirus cases.
This has led to increased restrictions such as the mandatory use of face coverings in all indoor spaces and where social distancing can't be maintained; only being able to meet outdoors for the time being and that people living in the County must work from home unless it is not reasonably practicable to do so.
After reviewing this and the current Government guidance we have decided that it does not affect our current offer of services as all colleagues will be following safe working practices that are in place to prevent the spread of the virus. Having planned for this, we are confident that we can continue with the re-introduction of services such as repairs while adhering to the Welsh Government guidelines around working in your homes.
Our priority is the safety of both our customer and colleagues, we will keep the new measures under regular review and monitor the situation regularly. We will update you immediately with any changes, both by letter and via our social media channels.
Today we issued a letter to our customers that sets out our approach for this and a timeline for these services to resume. This letter emphasises the importance of asking ourselves the same COVID19 questions we will ask customers when making an appointment. This ensures we are only in work visiting your homes if we are symptom free and safe to do so.
If you are due a repair or a visit from us and you or any member of your household exhibit symptoms please let us know as soon as possible so we can make alternate arrangements.
In the meantime, please stay safe and check our website and social channels for any updates to our services
With long-serving Chair John Kinder set to announce his retirement at this year's Annual General Meeting, Valleys to Coast have moved quickly to make two new appointments to both its Board and Audit Committee.
Joanne Smith will come in as Vice Chair of the Board and Sophie Taylor will take up the role of Audit Committee Chair when John retires from both roles in December, with both bringing a wealth of experience from the housing sector and beyond.
Incoming Vice Chair, Joanne Smith has a strong understanding of the housing sector and Valleys to Coast itself, having been involved with the organisation for six years initially as their regulation manager and for the last 4 years as a member of the Board. Jo is currently the Governance and Regulation Manager at Coastal Housing Group.
Sophie Taylor too has significant experience of housing, having started her career at PwC, her first role in Housing saw her join the Finance team at Trivallis before becoming Head of Finance at Cardiff and Vale College in 2017. Sophie’s latest role saw her finding her way back to the sector earlier this year when appointed as Head of Finance and Procurement at Bron Afon Housing Association.
Speaking of her appointment as the Audit Committee Chair, Sophie said: “I am really excited to take this new role. Housing is a sector that I am really passionate about, and becoming a Board member earlier this year has allowed me to broaden my knowledge of the sector and the challenges they are facing. Valleys to Coast is at an exciting time in their corporate journey, with a new Chief Executive and ambitious plans; I hope that my previous audit and assurance experience can help to support them on this journey and provide the robust governance that all organisations will need during these challenging times.”
Reflecting on his forthcoming retirement, John Kinder said: “I have found my six years at Valleys to Coast to be interesting, challenging and enjoyable. I have been pleased to see the development of the organisation from one focussed on refurbishing properties to one which is now concentrating on improving its overall service to customers.
In the future I see Valleys to Coast continuing to build more social housing and helping to reduce homelessness in Bridgend. I hope this along with a focus on improving our core services to customers will see them and others regard us as one of the premier social housing organisations in Wales.”
All at Valleys to Coast are keen to thank John Kinder for his sterling efforts in his six years at the organisation. John’s retirement will be announced as part of this year's Valleys to Coast Annual General meeting which will be held entirely online for the first time on the 23rd September.
Last week saw the first Valleys to Coast tenants move into four brand new low-carbon homes whose innovative design won the Grand Designs’ Self-Build on a Shoestring competition.
Valleys to Coast partnered with Pentan Architects, who designed the concept, to deliver the new ‘Barnhaus’ properties in North Cornelly in Bridgend, having been awarded the funding to help build them as part of the Welsh Government’s Innovative Housing Programme.
Constructed with a combination of steel and timber frames which can be erected in a single day, the new ‘Ski-lodge-style’ properties also use straw bales and recycled materials for insulation, as well as using roof-mounted solar panels to reduce electrical usage. Valleys to Coast commissioned Pentan Architects to design a pilot Barnhaus development back in 2014 with the aim of making the concept a reality for social housing tenants in North Cornelly. Built on the site of former garages, the project explored the idea of building more energy efficient new homes in a quicker time frame and for less money than a traditional house build.
These modern two-bedroom homes welcomed their first tenants on the 5th August, among them was mother-of-two, Chloe Devereux, who said: “It has been a bit of a wait because of Covid-19, but we are so pleased to finally be moving into this lovely home, it's a dream come true for me and my twin boys are going to love living here too”.
As part of the pilot, Valleys to Coast will be working with Cardiff University and the Welsh Government to monitor the energy efficiency of the properties with sensors installed in each of the four homes. With an EPC rating of A+ they are expected to not only provide lasting warmth and comfort to residents but also to help offer some solutions to help tackle fuel poverty within the social housing sector too.
Darrin Davies, Director of Development & Asset Investment at Valleys to Coast said:
“We are so pleased to have worked with Pentan Architects and SEER Construction and added these innovative homes to our stock here in Bridgend. Not only do we aim to provide homes that are happy and safe for our tenants but we want them to be good for the environment too. We will use what we have learnt from the design and delivery here to help us to develop the specification of our future homes with the aim of delivering high standards of energy efficiency, low carbon footprints and homes that are cheaper to run.”
Valleys to Coast would also like to thank Bridgend County Borough Council and the Welsh Government for supporting them to deliver these new homes in Bridgend.