The Big Poundbury Conversation, launched by the Residents’ Association, has engaged over 800 people during 2023. That’s around 20 percent of the population and a high figure for this kind of community project.
Involvement has included online surveys, including those devised by young people at local schools, several community workshops, group discussions with key organisations and stakeholders, and one to one meetings.
A community newspaper was published in the Autumn outlining the key findings. This made clear that whilst most people reported being happy here, others said they felt excluded, or that their needs were not being met. Problems to work on included road safety, build quality, antisocial behaviour, isolation (for some groups), and the cost of living. Opportunities highlighted were for more inclusive social activities, the sharing of food, tools, toys and books, more options and support for young people, better and greener travel options, and addressing the climate crisis and energy costs.
The paper also outlined some potential solutions alongside case studies of successful projects elsewhere. Community workshops involved over 100 residents, developing the ideas into a set of possible actions such as a community hub and a youth cafe, which were highlighted as two ways to deliver many of the objectives.
It has become clear that the current Residents’ Association (PRA) is not geared up to deliver these changes. One option is to develop a more broadly based organisation to include all those with an interest in Poundbury as well as home owners and social renters. That could include those who work here, those who are regular visitors or live close by, business owners, and other stakeholders. It might benefit from being a registered charity, so it is able to access the funding required to run some of the possible projects alongside the option to employ staff to help deliver them. It would also need a bigger team of willing volunteers with relevant skill sets to help deliver change.
The Conversation process has been a success in terms of identifying needs and possible solutions, but the community is now at a crucial point. It needs to decide if there is enthusiasm and commitment to take on a wider community development agenda with a greater level of engagement. Your motivation and active support is the key to success. You may decide that the current PRA remit and activity is adequate and there is no need to change. But we are struggling to resource even the current arrangement. Rob Hattersley, interim chair since July, has this week, as expected, had to stand down after 6 months for work reasons. Mike Stear and Simon Standish will co-chair the Association until an AGM in March, but then new people are needed either to maintain the current PRA or progress to a more broadly based Community Association. If not, the PRA will close without a successor.
A community meeting will take place on 24th January 2024 at Brownsword Hall to discuss options for the future, including a community association, and to agree the priority for attention in 2024. Please come along if you can – let us know by using this link.
Even if you can’t come, we’d like to hear your view. Please read this discussion paper and then complete this short survey before 24th January. If you cannot attend, please do let the group know your views by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.