By Charles Paxton
Last Saturday, with Brian Morris, I went to the Eden Communities Conference 2013 hosted by Action for Communities in Cumbria (ACT) at Kirkby Stephen’s Grammar School. Chaired by Councillor Mary Robinson, it was a very well attended meeting with presentations in the morning, a buffet networking lunch and workshops in the afternoon. Please see the EDC photo gallery on Facebook
The focus was upon Community Planning and the presentations were useful, mutually supportive and well-delivered. Lorraine Smythe and Helen Aitken of ACTion with Communities in Cumbria gave us a grounding introduction to Community Led Planning.
In short, and correct me if I’m wrong: The development of a Community Plan is a useful exercise in community self-awareness, an inclusive study of an area, its demographics, valued assets and perceived problems through consultation. It includes an inventory of community groups and declares development paths that the population have identified as being desirable.
Gordon Nicolson, Leader of Eden District Council and a National Neighbourhood Champion helped clarify the distinction between Community Planning which should be undertaken first and Neighbourhood Planning which should follow as it is planning based upon priorities that are revealed in the Community Plan. He explained why it is worthwhile, this greatly assists funding applications because it establishes the case for locally perceived need and central government will pay useful contributions to EDC for every Community Plan intiated, and again for each completed, and again for every local authority that has neighbourhood planning passed by referendum and implemented. He also explained how to go about it, and whom to contact for specialist assistance. Recent Census information is an additional aid to Councils now.
Tom Woof spoke as an Eden trail blazer because the Upper Eden Neighbourhood Development Plan was the first to be passed by referendum. Bolton is now going through the process.
Then we heard from David Sheard of Cumbria County Council and the Cumbria Resilience Forum about emergency planning and how it has helped the people in Keswick. He explained that local people are invariably best placed to deliver the first response and that this can be extremely helpful and that good organisation can greatly assist the efficacy of this response and can assist emergency services with local knowledge.
Judith Cooke, a LDNPA Member and David Reed, Chair of LDNPA Valley Planning Environment Sub-Group shared their insights in planning in the Ullswater valley within The Lake District National Park, talked about balancing the needs of local resident and visitor populations and delivered the welcome news of a new network of paths planned to enable walking closer to lake level!
The buffet was outstanding and gave good opportunity to meet people in various areas of Eden and at various stages of development planning process.
The workshop I attended addressed the process of communicating with residents by looking at theoretical examples and ‘putting ourselves in their shoes’ to envision how best to contact them.
Please see the link below for EDC’s report of the event. Some video footage of the speakers may become available in due course.
I think it was a useful event. My apologies for the delay in publishing this account.