Presentation on the Future Chard Strategy
The Chard High Street Heritage Action Zone Manager introduced Keith Thomas of PER Consulting who had been appointed along with Chris Jones to take a holistic look at Chard and its future prosperity and to draw up a strategy to address the issues faced in the town. She said that all aspects of life in Chard would be looked at as there were long-standing issues faced by residents which had not been addressed. It would be a different and ambitious change for the town which would be evidence and community-led.
Mr Thomas of PER Consulting provided the Committee with a presentation on the proposed Future Chard Strategy. He said it was about the connections of people and communities to their environment and places and also the physical challenges of the change of industry in urban areas. He said:
· they would take a broad appreciation of local community needs and challenges to create a new sense of direction and purpose for the community.
· The 15 year strategy would initially focus on the short term priorities of 3 to 5 years and it would then evolve and grow over the remaining years.
· The delivery of the strategy would include a number of partners including the Town Council, health and social services, community organisations and voluntary groups.
· There would be a 3 phase of activities in firstly gathering data and material on the community and engaging with a variety of organisations to develop a community of understanding and perhaps take a new perspective and see new connections possible.
· The second stage would create a framework around priorities and themes of interaction to structure delivery and tackle issues and see how success may look.
· Discussions with Councillors had identified community engagement as key at several informal meeting points within the town.
· Funding would be ongoing through the strategy.
· Short, medium and long-term interventions would be identified and they would have SMART targets.
· There would be no more than three to five aims in the strategy and they would have structured action plans for delivery along with other partners.
He concluded that it was hoped the strategy would be presented to the District Executive in September 2021. He invited questions from Members.
In response to questions from Members, Mr Thomas, the Director for Place and Recovery and the Chard High Street Heritage Action Zone Manager replied:
· Change in the town was inevitable in terms of the impact of the closure of Oscar Meyer but other opportunities would be created by organisations working together.
· The strategy would be different in 3 years time and 5 years time as issues were addressed and the understanding of place and community would help the response to change.
· The role of the strategy was to set the future direction but that direction would change over time and delivery would have to be agile.
· The people of Chard and the Area West Committee should feel that the own the objectives behind the strategy.
· The current regeneration projects were focused on the town centre and the Future Chard Strategy was intended to cover a wider area. It would also cover environmental factors, the wellbeing of residents and the feeling of community.
· There was not yet an action plan in place for the Council’s Recovery Strategy and it had a shorter term ambition but would include actions which would benefit the people of Chard i.e. supporting those unemployed as a result of the Covid pandemic back into work or training. There would be interlocking parts to both strategies.
· Chard Town Council would be a partner and an enabler of the strategy, but it would also engage with other partners like the NHS and Local Enterprise Partnership.
· The strategy would be funded through the revenue budget already available and the cost was not high but the implications of the aims could be significant. The strategy would be an evidence base to apply for grant funding.
· The public consultation process would continue and evolve during the life of the strategy. The broad challenges and issues which the community were facing now would come from the local partners engaged in the community and through the light touch conversations with residents. There would also be an informal survey open to all residents.
· The core structure of priorities in the strategy would be the basis for future community engagement.
At the conclusion of the debate, the Chairman thanked officers for their presentation and for answering Members questions and said they would look forward to a further briefing later in the year.