Bealings and Playford Parish Plan
On 2 April 2007 nearly 100 residents from Great Bealings, Little Bealings and Playford gathered in the Angela Cobbold Hall to learn about the Parish Plan process - and to make the decision of whether the three parishes should go ahead and produce one - or more - Parish Plans.
The meeting, steered by the Chairmen of the three Parish Councils, listened to a presentation by Annette Gray, Suffolk ACRE's Rural Services Officer, on what parish planning means and how to go about it. Suffolk ACRE supports the process throughout, providing training and advice - for example on funding, how to carry out consultation and potential partners.
Annette explained that a Parish Plan contained whatever the parish concerned wanted it to. There was therefore a real need to ask the community what issues they wanted addressed. These may include anything from local housing needs or the setting up of a nature reserve, to the need for a local luncheon club for home workers or a 'Good Neighbours' scheme. The process starts with the forming of a Steering Group of volunteers who decide how to find out what is important to local people, carry out consultation, pull together the findings and then present them at an open meeting. The final Parish Plan then includes a list of Actions to be achieved over a 10 year period, and the priority to be given to each one.
Very importantly the Plan is put before SCDC and SCC and makes clear what a parish's view is on the things for which those Councils have responsibility: development and traffic are examples of likely topics on which a parish will have an opinion.
Fortified with excellent refreshments arranged by Peter and Vicky Carr, the meeting then grappled with whether each parish should go ahead with Parish Planning and, if so, how many Plans should there be?
The result: each parish voted separately to set up a one joint Steering Group to carry out consultation and present findings. On the issue of whether this should lead to one joint Plan or separate Plans it was decided to await the outcome of the consultations. It may be that some issues identified are joint concerns best addressed by the parishes working together, while others may need to go into a Plan unique to one parish.
An impressive 45 people then volunteered to take some part in producing the Parish Plan - either by joining the Steering Group, helping with distribution or collection of questionnaires, inputting data or in other ways.
Forming the steering group
A steering group of 15 people from the 3 parishes was formed. It comprised:
The steering group met every 3 weeks and was chaired on a rotating basis by one of Eric Barnett, Sarah Wilson or Anne Seward. Minutes were taken by Carol Ramsden.
Obtaining a budget
The initial work of the group was to put together a budget to allow consultation activities to take place. Brooks and Wood very kindly gave £200 to "kick-start" the exercise, and money was saved courtesy of the Admiral's Head allowing steering group meetings to take place in their restaurant. £100 came from Councillor Bellfield's local budget, but most of the (approximately) £3000 cost of the exercise came from Suffolk ACRE, using DEFRA funding.
2 meetings were held in November 2007 - one in Bealings and the other in Playford - to allow residents to say what they felt were the key issues that they would like a Parish Plan to tackle. This was very successful, with 117 people attending - over 20% of the local households. A number of issues arose from these meetings, and further detail was added to these with a focus group.
As a result of these activities, a questionnaire was prepared and reviewed by the members of the steering group.
The residents of the parishes aren't the only people interested in the Parish Plan - other stakeholders such as local businesses and clubs must be involved. The Steering Group formed a Stakeholder Working Group to survey these other stakeholders separately.
Completion of the Plan.
The plan came to fruition in April 2009. It was published as a 44 page report and exhibitions were held in the Angela Cobbold Hall, the Admiral's Head and the Playford Parish Hall.