Beech Hill

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Village Plan Minutes 26 September 2011

Beech Hill Village Plan kick-off meeting
Monday 26-Sep-2011
 
Location
Beech Hill Memorial Hall
 
Agenda
1.      Welcome – Charlie
Introductions - Mike
a.      How we got here
2.      What is a Village Plan – Sarah Ward
a.      What is its purpose
b.      What should it include
c.       What should it not include
d.      Where do Parish Council and Village Plan overlap
e.      When is our first version finished
f.        Gaining acceptance by West Berks
3.      Methodology – Sarah Ward
a.      Tools and Templates available
b.      Financial Resources required
c.       Village participation
4.      Organisation - Charlie
a.      Steering group function, membership & responsibilities
b.      Topics that require sub groups
c.       Sub group scoping & leadership
5.      Next Steps - Charlie
6.      Next Meeting
 
Attending
·         Mike Methven (Beech Hill Parish Council Chair)
·         Sarah Ward (Village Plan Project Development);
·         Charlie Carter, Robert Newman, Graham Bell, Fleur Howles (interested Beech Hill residents);
 
Next meeting
Thursday 3-Nov, at The Priory, Beech Hill.  
Objective:  Go through Sarah’s questionnaire/resource info and finalise preparations for Bonfire Night
 
Actions   
1)      Sarah:  Send examples of the best questions/questionnaires already used in West Berks.
2)      Sarah:  Blow up to A1 size some maps of Beech Hill for residents to put stickies onto with suggestions. 
3)      Sarah:  Provide boards for use on the night
4)      Robert: Put an article  in the next Lodden Reach on the village plan.
5)      Mike: Provide float of £200 for leaflets/flyers
Minutes
1)      Introductions.  Charlie noted that there was a concern about the amount of time and effort that could be needed for the village plan, and noted that residents reserved the right to withdraw if it was felt that the plan was not making sufficient progress.  This was discussed at length during the meeting, but the general feeling was to kick the planning exercise off and then take stock based on the feedback received. 
2)      Mike gave an introduction outlining the Beech Hill Village community
a)      He discussed some of the funding activities the Parish council has underway (funding needed for allotments, etc).  He noted  that there were a number of charities involved in supporting these activities, and that Beech Hill should benefit from this help.  A Village Plan is a way of securing funding from such charities and from West Berks Council, as it demonstrates that village projects in the plan have the support of a majority of local residents.
b)      Beech Hill is one of the smaller parishes with around 125 households and around 224 registered voters.   The population according to West Berkshire is 375! 
c)      It was noted that a village plan is not limited to the parish boundary.  The terminology has been changed to ‘community or neighbourhood plan’ to avoid this confusion.  It should be the residents of Beech Hill that the plan covers.
d)      The Parish Council carries out a regular village survey to determine the concerns of local residents.  The last survey was carried out in 2007 - 28% of residents responded.  The items of concern raised included traffic, a village shop, and village hall – (these items have been/are being progressed) – also housing to downsize to, heating/gas/oil purchasing, allotments, cycle paths, a regular bus service, weekly surgery in the village hall, and footpaths. 
e)      There was a brief discussion about the allotments trust, which needs some funding.  Charlie made the suggestion that one way to manage this might be to merge the allotments fund with the village hall fund (as they are both charities).  Discussion on this was deferred.
3)      Sarah introduced herself – she works for a charity called CCB – Community Council for Berkshire - (http://www.actionforall.org.uk/CCB/Communityplanningandconsultation) - not for West Berks.  Her West Berks contact is Jo Naylor (principal policy officer – jnaylor [at] westberks.gov.uk  01635 503019).  Sarah is able to act as local support officer for the Beech Hill Village Plan group, and can help with village plan production by providing advice and guidance, and resources such as photocopying and printing through the Greenham Common Trust, and questionnaire planning.  She provided some background on village plans:
a)      Since its inception some 8 years ago, the Community Planning Project has helped raise funding for villages via community plans (47 published to date).   Communities raised £515,403 of funding last year, and Community Planning published 9 village plans (Beedon, Brightwalton and Catmore, Chieveley, Cold Ash, East Garston, Greenham, Frilsham, Padworth and Winterbourne).
b)      The ‘plan’, is essentially a 5 year action plan covering anything that the residents of an area would like to achieve.  The chief purpose of the plan is to provide validated requirements to back up a funding bid.  It is used to lobby the council and the council service providers, (transport, housing, etc), for funding and approval for the plan items.
c)      There is a process in place which takes a completed village plan, and circulates it for review and approval by all Heads of Service in West Berks council.  This process will provide feedback on the plan, and confirm deliverability of plan items where relevant (for example, changing bus routes).  It can also unlock funding.  Communities can bid for up to £5K in any one year for capitol projects from West Berks Council, and there are other funds available (e.g. Vibrant Village Fund),that support certain village plan-led projects.
d)      The Localism Bill will enshrine the ‘neighbourhood plan’ in legislation as an element of the national planning framework .  The bill is due to go through Parliament next year (April 2012).  This is expected to have a major impact on local planning.
e)      Sarah distributed the 9 Step Process, which outlines the steps recommended to produce a village plan.  The most important thing is to get some publicity out and hold an event, which can be used to gather requirements.  The next step is to follow that up with a questionnaire to validate and confirm the feedback. 
f)       The question of what kinds of things a village plan could cover and what it could achieve was raised.  The scope can include anything village residents are interested in – from social, environmental, economic and cultural issues to health related concerns.   For example, a plan could include a design statement to specify requirements for new builds in the village to comply with.  The plan should not include single-issue items that do not have general support.
g)      Other people we could talk to about the plan were Bill Jones from Sulhamstead and Rebecca Barker from Mortimer.
h)      Parish Councils and Village Plans overlap through the Parish Council having a rep on the Village Plan committee.
i)        The steps for creating the plan are drawn directly from standard project/programme management methodology (establish steering group, gather requirements, prioritise, review funding, build implementation plan, etc).  It was noted that using ‘corporate speak’ would be unpopular, so a village plan committee should make sure to use more friendly terminology when discussing/broadcasting the plan to the village. 
4)      In terms of kicking off the planning process in Beech Hill, Sarah suggested that we use the next Village Hall gathering to begin collecting suggestions.  It was agreed that we would use the Bonfire Night celebration (13-Nov), as many of the local villagers are likely to attend. 
a)      There was some discussion about how to gather suggestions – general agreement was for a series of boards, each with a different theme for feedback, to be placed in the Hall.  Residents attending the Bonfire Night and coming through the Hall would be invited to take a set of stickies, write their comments including their contact details, and place them on the appropriate board.  Another option mooted was building a polystyrene model of the village for people to stick comment flags into; however it was agreed that this is probably not achievable in time for Bonfire Night. 
b)      Bonfire Night also provides an opportunity to ask for anyone in the village who would be interested in volunteering to be part of or lead the Village Plan creation.  It was raised that the plan may be perceived by the village as another initiative controlled by the Trustees of the Memorial Hall.   It was agreed we would try to find others who would be prepared and interested in leading the Village Plan and making the necessary recommendations to the Parish Council.   If no-one was found to fulfil this role there would be serious questions raised as to the validity of having a Village Plan at all .
Meeting Date: 
Monday, September 26, 2011 - 19:18

 

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