The Parish Council decided they shouldn’t just wait for the inevitable. They resolved to take charge of their village’s future, and to bring the community together to plan a different way.
So began a very lively debate about the future of the village, its sense of purpose and its identity. It was to last over two years. People got involved and they generated lots of good ideas:
- making sustainable local food production a cornerstone of their economy, with the village shop selling local produce.
- developing a plan to protect and improve the natural environment, recognising how important it is in making our air and water cleaner, helping our physical and mental wellbeing, and preventing the flooding that threatens low lying parts – what scientists call ‘natural capital’.
- finding new, green ways of generating electricity – perhaps with some solar farms to start with, although they didn’t want them around for too long. Wind, they decided, was the future.
- encouraging small, modern businesses to set up in vacant farm buildings.
All this will make the village a better, more sustainable place. But our Parish Council also wanted to re-build the sense of community. After much discussion, the village agreed their future depended on:
- accepting new homes, but making sure that they meet everyone’s needs and budgets, and are not just for the wealthy.
- making sure that community space, the Parish Hall and playing fields, is used creatively for activities and events which include everyone.
- getting a range of health services delivered locally. They wanted to make sure that everyone, from new families to the older generation, could get all the support and advice they needed in one place. No one should need to move away from the village or travel long distances to get the support they needed.
- taking a fresh look at transport. They wanted people to be able to move between the village and neighbouring communities freely, taking advantage of emerging technologies to reduce dependence on private cars.
The Parish Council recognise it won’t be enough to spell out the village’s ambitions. They have to be clear how you would achieve them. They invested more time and energy in drawing up a detailed community plan which made very clear what they want to change, how they would achieve that and what it would cost. Others helped with that planning: the County and District Councils, the local NHS, even local businesses and utility providers.
From the beginning the Parish Council were anxious that the village, not others, should have the final say in their future. So they began talking to the County and District Councils about devolving some decision-making and control of local services, and even some money. One Councillor even had her eye on more say over NHS budgets!