KIRDFORD is paving the way forward, showing other communities how to take control and decide the fate of their villages.
The Kirdford Parish Neighbourhood Development Plan (KPNDP) has been compiled by residents and the Parish Council. It establishes a vision for the evolution and long-term sustainability of Kirdford Parish and village over the next ten to 15 years.
Gathered through extensive consultation, a neighbourhood plan is made to reflect the needs of the community.
One of the objectives of Kirdford’s plan is to retain the character of the village and improve the sustainability of social, environmental and economic resources. The action plan also stemmed from education problems and issues with limited transport.
Kirdford has seen drastic changes in the past ten to 20 years, with extensive growth in housing and the loss of the school and the shop, which was replaced with the community-owned village stores in 2010.
In the decade since the closure of the school, demand for school places in the surrounding area has increased. This, alongside the lack of public transport in and out of the village, forced the villagers to take action by looking into enhancing the funding and provision of community bus services.
Neighbourhood planning legislation came into effect in April 2012, under the Localism Act. The plan devolves power from the government and gives people more influence over making plans and planning orders, with minimal government interference.
As such, communities are able to influence decisions about buildings in their area, and set their own priorities for local development, while councils are able to raise money for these infrastructures.
Having waited patiently for six months for the localism bill to be passed, Kirdford then launched into action.
Around 90 per cent of stakeholders in the village, including West Sussex County Council, Southern Water, land-owners and businesses, were involved in the process.
All the planning policies were written by the steering group, and put into ‘legalese’ by planning consultant Alex Munro.
Josef Ransley is chairman of the steering group and cabinet member for corporate services and communication for Chichester District Council. He said: “We were one of the first group of people to do this, so no-one, including the authorities, had much experience.
“We wanted to do it properly and comprehensively. With this plan, our community can take charge of itself. We do not want someone sitting 40 miles away to tell us what to do.
“We got a grant from the government because we did all the hard work to complete the process.”
The group is conscious of protecting its area and the 15 bat species living there, including the rare Barbastelle bat.
If the plan is successfully passed, the workshop opposite the village stores – which was a hospital for sheep 100 years ago – will become the local business hub, with workshops for tradespeople.
Residents have also requested better home/work areas, so the plan has proposed combined houses and working areas, of which around 40 per cent of the building will be an extension for work purposes. This is necessary for the 30 per cent of self-employed people in the village.
Josef said: “We want to promote growth and development, so if a young man wished to set up a business here, for example, we could subsidise his rent to help with the business start-up.”
The community shop also has an art wall which showcases the talent of artists from the area, and a handmade jewellery exhibition.
Sue Ransley, chairman of the community shop, said: “We want to be known for arts and crafts in the village. Our art wall has a waiting list of exhibitors for the next 18 months. It attracts tourists so adds to our growing trade and commerce.”
Future development plans include a community social centre, improved sports grounds and a medical outreach centre. The group is also looking to build a warden’s flat, which will create yet another job.
One of its biggest objectives is to create more private and social housing for the elderly.
Mrs Ransley said: “Other communities considering embarking on this process have a right to be fearful of it, but the benefits are incredible.
“It creates a real sense of community.”
For the full story see this weeks Observer (July 18)