The future of our imaginary village was shaped by a dozen people with an understanding of rural life and a passion for the countryside who came together in Brockenhurst Scout Hut. In just a morning they came up with a wealth of good ideas.
That’s exactly what any rural community that wants to plan for the future needs to do. They need to think about their future: what are their ambitions, what sort of life do they want for residents, current and future? Of course that can’t be decided in a morning, and everyone must get their say. But the first step is to open up a community-wide conversation.
Any group of committed residents can drive real change The local Parish Council are generally best placed to bring together those from across the community to hear their ideas, their aspirations and their concerns for the future. Properly managed, that dialogue can generate the ideas which will shape the future. It must be inclusive, and people must be open minded: it’s very unlikely that any community can hide from change, instead they need to make sure it works to their benefit.
Once the community has its vision it needs to be backed up by a powerful plan which gives more detail about what needs to change and how. Delivering the vision can be the hardest part. It will need money, although the challenge is persuading other organisations to spend money in a way which reflects what the community want.
The community must influence others who’ll shape its future. They need to build relationships with other key players: the district and county councils, perhaps the LEP and even NHS. They need to talk to bus companies, utility companies, any major landowners who don’t live locally – anyone who has some power or influence over their community. All this will help get investment and get those who can affect villagers’ lives on their side.
Every community can shape their own future. Start the ball rolling, get a discussion going!