Earlier this year, Lockerbie Community Council commissioned a Community Action Plan to support community-led activity aimed at improving the Lockerbie area as a place in which to live, work and visit. Following a public meeting in November 2016, a steering group was established comprising a number of Community Councillors and other local residents.
An independent team, led by Nick Wright Planning with WMUD and Icecream Architecture, was engaged to prepare the Plan. The steering group was clear that the content of the Plan should be based on engagement with the local community and should be seen as belonging to the local community, as it will be their energy and enthusiasm that will turn it into reality.
The Community Action Plan is a flexible framework to guide collaborative action by all who have Lockerbie’s interests at heart: residents, community groups, businesses, the local authority, Community Planning partners, landowners, developers and other agencies.
The plan contains the local community’s vision of what their community should be like in 10 years’ time, together with priority actions to get there. The vision and actions are based on the local own communities’ aspirations, gleaned through engagement with local people during spring 2017. (Read about a similar example at Moffat and Beattock here).
Preparation of the Lockerbie plan was triggered by the likely availability of ‘community benefit’ funds from proposed wind farms in the area around Lockerbie over the coming decades. Other sources of public and private sector investment funding may also be available in the future.
It’s not just about money…
Improving a community is not simply about money, however. It should also be of use to public services and others to inform how they deliver services and decide policy in the future, from health care to public transport and land-use planning.
The action plan is designed to guide not only investment but also public sector decision-making affecting Lockerbie in the future. Its aim is to help the public, private and third sector understand how best to act in Lockerbie for the good of the community, as well as acting as a support for the community itself to access funds. It has been prepared at a time of increasing political desire to empower communities and increase the impact of limited public spending – a changing context which creates opportunities for the local community and Community Planning partners to work together for better effect.
Importantly, the plan also helps people and organisations work together for common cause.
Delivering the vision outlined in the Community Action Plan will not be achieved by one organisation on its own. It will require collaborative action by residents, community groups, businesses, landowners, the local authority and other public / third sector agencies – in other words, everyone who has an interest in the future of the town, working together in genuine partnership.
We’re delighted that the local authority and a number of Community Planning partners took part in the process – that helps make sure that the proposals will get the widespread support that they need.
How was the action plan prepared?
We used a simple three stage process to work with the local community to prepare the plan.
Stage 1: research
This first stage built an understanding of what it is like to live, work in and visit the town; the patterns of community, business and public sector activity; and their aspirations for the future.
A number of activities took place. First and foremost, the team undertook a comprehensive programme of community engagement to gather views in different ways:
- a Facebook page with 240 followers
- a community survey carried out online and using flyers, with around 125 responses
- sessions with pupils in Lockerbie Primary School and Lockerbie Academy
- one-to-one discussions with members of the local community – including sport, recreation, civic and cultural groups, residents and businesses
The team also undertook socio-economic research, desk research and site visits to understand how Lockerbie has developed over time, current and recent plans and projects (including a 2013 Regeneration Masterplan, Dumfries and Galloway Local Development Plan and other strategic documents), and particular opportunities or constraints in relation to community aspirations. We also contacted the local authority and Community Planning Partnership. These discussions covered planning, transport, community planning, housing, health and social care.
Stage 2: community event
Stage 2 of the work programme brought together these various strands at a community workshop on 2 May 2017. This was promoted through flyers, Facebook, email circulation and word-of-mouth. Approximately 60 people participated in the workshop. Those involved said the turnout was excellent for Lockerbie.
The event drew together the work carried out during stage 1 and was an opportunity for local people to come together and explore the future of their community. It consisted of a combination of presentations and interactive discussions.
The event was used to test a series of draft themes (each with supporting actions) which had emerged during stage 1:
- High Street and parking
- green spaces and walks
- health and well-being
- community action
- homes, jobs and services
This ‘testing’ was carried out in group discussions during the workshop, which produced a number of annotated sheets. These were posted on Facebook so those who could not come to the workshop could see and comment online.
Stage 3: plan
As a result of the workshop, a number of changes and additions were made to the draft themes and actions. The final vision and actions are brought together in the Community Action Plan.
There are four priority areas described in the plan, all rooted in community aspirations:
- town centre
- sport, leisure, health and well-being
- homes, jobs and services
- community resources
The plan contains a full matrix of actions and who should be involved. To see the report online, click here or on the cover image below:
Most important, of course, is what comes next: action.
The plan’s actions deliberately range across the whole range of activity needed to make a better place, including:
- Upgrading the main town centre park, with the community taking a more active role in maintenance and events and organising events (see plan below).
- Addressing car parking problems and at the same time tackling the shortage of business space in the town centre.
- Emphasising the Town Hall’s role as a community hub, with more information about what’s on in the town, and more colour and activity spilling outside – something which also applies to the High Street in general.
- Improving the appearance of Tower Buildings, Bridge Street and Caledonian Place, including reuse of vacant properties.
- Local organisations want to improve what they provide – from the Mids football club and Lockerbie Wildlife Trust to the long-standing ambition of a swimming pool.
- Improving signage and promotion of the excellent network of rural walks and cycle routes extending out into the countryside is excellent.
- Maintaining the quality of education, healthcare and transport as the town grows.
- More resources are needed for the overstretched community sector. Money is a part of that, but so is access to expertise in seeking funding/capacity building and indoor space.
The action plan does not aim to tackle everything that has been suggested by local people. That would result in a wish-list, much of which would be unattainable. Instead, the document is a practical but ambitious programme of collaborative action over the next five years. That word ‘collaborative’ is important.
These actions will only be delivered:
- If the local community, the Council and other members of the Community Planning partnership work together for a common purpose.
- If resources are made available to support community action.
- If sufficient local people come forward to enable the steering group to evolve and have enough capacity to lead the implementation of this plan
Now it’s over to you, Lockerbie. We know you’re already starting to make things happen. Keep up the good work, and let us know if you need any support!