Over the last decade, Central Government has encouraged rural communities to put forward their ideas of how their communities should develop and contribute to their own future in a series of “Plans”. These have included Village Appraisals, Village Design Statements, Parish Plans and Neighbourhood Plans.
Neighbourhood Plans where they are carried out, will have a significant impact on housing and other physical development.
An important fact to remember is that none of these Plans are compulsory, they are encouraged but not imposed. Yet they can bring considerable benefits to a rural community, especially as they are largely a voluntary exercise and can be a vehicle for better community relations and communications.
Of all of these Plans, the Parish Plan is considered the most “holistic” approach, embracing any aspect of village matters that is of interest, concern and meets the aspirations of a village community for the future. It is also a document for “action” and remains a live document, sometimes referred to as a” blueprint” for the future.
A large number of villages across the whole of England have undertaken Parish Plans since their inception in 2004 and in Stratford District, 40 villages have completed or are in the process of completing a Parish Plan. In our part of the District we are the only village without a Plan or a Village Appraisal, so we have a wonderful opportunity to learn from our neighbours and complete a great Parish Plan.
The Parish Plan process
A Parish Plan is not a short term exercise, the majority of villages have taken between 18-24 months from start to finish of their Plans. It also is not a free process and is largely funded by grants and the efforts of volunteer supporters to meet total costs of between £1500 and £2500. These costs are mainly for a detailed questionnaire and professional analysis together with a final Parish Plan document.
Parish Plans are not undertaken by the Parish Council, unlike a Neighbourhood Plan, but by a Steering group that is representative of the village community. It is usually supported by the Parish Council, but it is set up as independent group with its own constitution, officers and bank account.
This is an important part of the process and enables the Steering Group to seek and bid for funds.
Steering Groups have the major task of engaging with all village groups e.g. Village Hall Committees, Parish Councils, PCCs, Mother and Toddler Groups and a cross section of villagers to identify the issues that they would like to be included in a confidential questionnaire which forms the heart of the Parish Plan.
Yet the Parish Plan is not simply a questionnaire and a report, it is a snapshot of the village and its inhabitants. It can include a history of the village, how people including the children, view the village in a physical sense, what they like and dislike about the village and why they decided to live here.
Above all it is an Action Plan that takes the responses of the inhabitants and creates Working Groups to investigate and explore the ideas put forward by villagers. These Groups will look at the major concerns, needs or interests and also individual ideas that could be of benefit to the community. Where appropriate it will make recommendations to the statutory bodies that manage or administer our community.
Throughout the whole process the Steering Group will communicate with the community through bulletins, meetings and events.
To succeed it needs commitment from the village and a readiness to grasp the opportunities that a Parish Plan can provide.
We hope you will support the Plan and the Steering Group Committee.
You can download the original document here (you will need Adobe PDF reader to view this file)