Members of the Whitchurch Town Plan Steering Group attended the first Community Planning Networking event last night, held at the Civic Offices in Basingstoke.
The Town Plan is a vision of where Whitchurch should be in the future.
The evening was arranged by the Carole Ruse, Community Planning Officer for Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council and was an opportunity to meet members of other groups who are at different stages in the process, and to be able to share experiences.

Forming the Plan
The event was addressed by Cllr Clive Sanders, the Cabinet member for Communities, Sport and Leisure, who ran through his own experiences in forming a Plan for East Woodhay.
He covered aspects of the forthcoming Localism Bill, stating that:

“Local people are best placed for what they want in the local community”

The went on to explain some of the possibilities, such as a legal right to the opportunity for Community Assett Purchase, where pubs, shops, or other amenities would be offered to the local community (for a period of time) prior to any change in use. In Whitchurch we have a prime example where this could have been enacted in the Harvest Home.
“People identifying what they want to keep” was an important principle, he continued.

Need for good consultation
‘Participatory Budgetting’ was also discussed, where funding can be provided within a framework of responsibility, to enable the carry through actions and local requirements. But before this there must be comprehensive local consultation to obtain a buy in from the whole community. It was stressed that progress depends very much on a commitment and enthusiasm and that it can take time. Often an umbrella body will be needed for the Plan and some locations have moved towards the creation of a ‘Village Society’ as an umbrella to bring groups together.
In Whitchurch it was noted that following the last ‘Health Check’, the community may already have the basis for this.

A very useful evening
Those present formed into groups and discussed a variety of issues surrounding how the local community creates its Plan for the future, and in particular what methods of local consultation works best, from formal meetings to community-wide events.
It was a very useful evening and those present learned a lot.

In Whitchurch it is still early stages and the results of the last public meeting at the White Hart are presently being analysed. Once this is complete it is hoped to start the detailed consulation process.

Further information
If anyone would like to learn more, help, or have input please email WHITCHURCH TOWN PLAN

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