WEXHAM COURT PARISH COUNCIL
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE:
Councillors Robert Aldridge (working), and Dalip Rajput.
37. PARISH PLAN FOR WEXHAM COURT
A Special Meeting had been convened solely for the purpose of discussing the Parish Plan. Representatives of the CCB (Community Council for Berkshire), Tim Palmer and Tessa Hall, had kindly offered to attend the meeting to provide information.
Tim and Tessa had worked with various communities on Community/Parish Plans and appreciated that it was not always easy to generate interest in the project amongst local residents.
Tim and another of his colleagues had recently visited Wexham Court and taken part in a walkabout of the estate with the Chairman and Clerk. This had helped him to gain an understanding of the area and the community. He explained that a Parish Plan is a process of engaging the community to enable them to have their input and a ‘voice’ in relation to what actions could be considered in their local area in association with the Parish Council and other organisations.
They gave an interesting presentation, during which the following was noted:
· The Parish Plan would need to be led by the community, whilst also involving the Parish Council. A steering group should be formed consisting of representatives from both.
· The new Government’s ‘Big Society’ (previously the Empowerment Agenda) encourages community input.
· The Parish Plan would ultimately be a working document that would carry influence in local decisions at higher level. It may prove useful when it comes to renewing our leases in future.
· The first step is to look at ways of engaging people and encouraging them to get involved. A Launch Day at the Parish Hall would be a good way of achieving this, possibly providing food and refreshments and a prize draw for attendees. A leaflet could include the heading “Come along and find out what it’s all about” or “Come and have your say” or “Connecting with your Paish Council to make things happen”. As Wexham is a multi-cultural area, the provision of a variety of foods for all the relevant nationalities may attract a greater range of residents. A few key characters with enthusiasm is all that would be needed to get the Plan underway, and it was recommended that some young people are chosen to take it forward as well as more experienced residents. The CCB could help with the preparations for the Launch Day.
· There are nine steps in all (detailed in the handout provided) and themes can include areas such as safety, health and wellbeing, the environment, amenities for the young and elderly, etc.
· The CCB is able to assist in consultation with different groups, and can also help with obtaining funding.
· The final Parish Plan would contain action points relating to the wishes and needs of local residents. It is possible that many of these points could be actioned straight away (i.e. litter picking to keep the area tidy), whilst others may require more detailed planning and funding to be obtained.
· A Parish Plan generally consists of a ten year strategy which would need to be reviewed on a regular basis to highlight any changes and keep it ongoing – perhaps every five years.
· It was noted that the Parish Council is useful to the community in relation to such items as the provision of local amenities, planning control, ownership/lease of land, and this should be pointed out to the public to encourage them to participate.
· The completed Parish Plan would be adopted by the Parish Council following consultation with the community and the Borough Council. SBC can’t prevent the Parish Plan, but can comment on action points that relate to them and may disagree with some of them. However, the Parish Plan would demonstrate the needs of the community and it therefore can’t be easily ignored and would be a good tool of persuasion.
· It was noted that, although SBC don’t always fully interact with WCPC for political reasons, many of the Officers are helpful. The Parish Council provides local facilities that would otherwise have to be provided by the Borough, and it was felt that SBC should have an appreciation of this fact (this could be mentioned in the Plan).
· Whilst the Borough Council prefer to be in overall control, it was noted that they have little direct control over Parishes as we are run independently. ‘Empowerment’ can only work if both the Borough Council and Central Government ‘let go’.
· The community consultations could be used as a means of ‘reaching out’ to individuals or groups – for example, the multi-occupational landlords who currently appear to have no respect for the area may gain a greater understanding of the needs of their fellow residents.
· The steering group should be aware that they may have to deal with argumentative and self-opinionated people during the course of the consultations, and would need to be careful not to simply ‘throw out’ any residents’ ideas that they may not agree with.
· It was suggested that a leaflet relating to the Launch Day could be included with the Christmas Newsletter for delivery to all homes in the Parish.
· There are currently in the region of 4,000 Parish Plans nationwide. A few examples were provided, and further examples could be found on the Internet.
Following discussion and consideration of all the above points the Chairman closed by commenting that he was keen to go ahead with the Parish Plan, but was a little wary of some aspects of it. He thanked Tim and Tessa for taking the time to come along and indicated that, following further discussion by the Parish Council, they may be asked to return and offer additional advice.
The Meeting closed at 9.20 p.m.
Click here to return to home page