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Residents’ help needed to build on community success

18th September 2007

RESIDENTS in three Cairngorms National Park communities are being asked to take part in a project that aims to build on their villages’ successes.

‘Our Community…A Way Forward’ will run in Grantown-on-Spey, Cromdale and Dulnain Bridge and will ask residents about the positive aspects of their community and how they and other resources can be built on.

The information will then be used to establish a priority list of future projects and developments in the communities, with a commitment from the organisations involved to help fund the priorities where appropriate.

A steering group, which includes representatives from Grantown-on-Spey, Cromdale/Advie and Dulnain Bridge Community Councils, the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA), The Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise Inverness and East Highland; Voluntary Action Badenoch and Strathspey and the Association of Cairngorms Communities has been set up to oversee the project and to establish the priority list.

Housing Plus will carry out the consultations and household surveys.

‘Community conversations’ will be carried out over the next three months with the communities and voluntary and business organisations in the form of open meetings with targeted groups and an internet forum. They will focus on positive aspects of the community including housing.

Hard to reach groups, such as parents and toddlers, people with disabilities and the elderly and youth are being targeted to ensure a wide and diverse range of opinion and that the project involves all the community.

Jim Beveridge from Grantown Community Council said: “Often community needs assessments look at the problems in a community, what people don’t like or what the community doesn’t have. We won’t be ignoring real problems such as the lack of affordable housing in the area, however our starting point is that this community has a lot going for it and has achieved great things in the past. We will be looking at the good things like the Craig MacLean Leisure Centre, Anagach Woods and Grantown and District Times and how we can build on these in the next ten years.”

Sandra Fowler from Cromdale/Advie Community Council said: “We want to make sure that it’s not just ‘the usual suspects’ that get involved in this. We will be making particular efforts to involve a wide cross section of the community including young people, people with disabilities, local businesses, the Churches etc. But we can’t do it all ourselves and we are looking for individuals or local organisations who would be willing to organise their own ‘community conversation’ and feed back the results to us.”

Beth Grant from Dulnain Bridge Community Council said: “This project is not just about consultation, it’s also about action and a longer term process where local people will get involved in prioritising ideas and actually take them forward. That’s partly why we are calling it a conversation – because we want to have a two way discussion between the community and local agencies not just about the issues facing this community but what we are actually going to do about them.”

Jaci Douglas, Highland Councillor, said: “The Community Conversations will provide an ideal opportunity for local people to have their say in decisions that will directly affect them. Public agencies are realising that one of the ways to develop and strengthen rural communities is to encourage local participation in community facilities and decision making. This is why it’s really important that people take an active part in this project.”

Claire Ross, the CNPA’s Education and Inclusion Manager, said: “The important thing is to make the pilot as fun, innovative and engaging as possible so everyone gets involved. We really want to hear from all the residents about how they think their communities can be improved.

“Communities sometimes feel that they are over consulted, with this pilot we are keen to take the lead from the communities themselves.”

Household surveys will be posted to residents of Cromdale/Advie and Dulnain Bridge later this month. Grantown residents will receive their surveys during October. They should be completed and returned by Friday October 12th. Information will also be available in the local press about events in the three communities or alternatively contact Janet Collins from Housing Plus on 01479 841 391; the Housing Plus freephone number on 0808 100 1354 or Ann Clark on 01463 222 770 or email [email protected] Anyone wishing to get involved in the project should also contact the above numbers.