A project to restore the rich ceramic heritage of St Austell in Cornwall is just one of 30 pioneering schemes set to draw upon the well of community-led solutions.
St Austell Bay Economic Forum aims to revitalise the local area through ceramic-based educational projects, festivals and public art. And it is not alone in finding answers at grassroots level. From tackling an epidemic of closed shops and social issues in Blackpool to responding to the proliferation of low-skilled jobs in Dorset, communities across England are rising to the challenge.
The local approach is championed through the Co-operatives UK-led Community Economic Development (CED) programme. The government-backed initiative is now into its second year with 20 new groups working to develop their own community economic development plans.
CED is part of the Department for Communities and Local Government’s (DCLG) suite of Community Rights support programmes. Communities Minister, Andrew Percy said: "It’s great to see that the ambition and drive shown by local people through the Community Economic Development programme is making a real change to the economic, social and environmental health of their communities.
"The achievements shown over the past year indicate a real enthusiasm both from communities themselves and from those working in local growth and economic development. I have no doubt that the second year will see a further demonstration of this approach to improving local economies, as an important way of ensuring that everyone benefits."
Each group will work with an experienced adviser to develop a dynamic and deliverable local economic plan. Groups benefit through a £5,000 grant and access to specialist technical support on diverse areas including community enterprise, finance, stakeholder engagement and asset acquisition/development.
"What we develop will be small but extremely significant for all those that are involved." Sarah Gorman, Edberts House
The programme will also support a further 10 communities progress elements of their CED plans developed in 2015, from securing funding for investment or business development to delivering larger scale projects. Co-operatives UK Secretary General, Ed Mayo, said: "It’s really exciting to see a second wave of groups set about delivering real economic change in their neighbourhoods. Communities know the challenges they face better than anyone and - with the correct backing and support – are ideally placed to put solutions in place.
"We’re already set to see the huge impact the CED programme can have on people’s lives. Declining amenities in Byers Green (County Durham) have hit residents hard. But as a result of CED residents are looking forward a new community-owned shop that will also act as a local hub – and further plans are in place to tackle local transport and social care issues. That’s just one example from last year’s programme – and thanks to DCLG support we are on course for a second round of success stories."
Participant communities are located across England, from Tyneside to St Austell, Barrow to Bognor and are all deprived, or have pockets of deprivation. All of the communities applied to take part due to a desire to take control of their local economics and see real economic change in their local area.
The first year’s programme successfully supported 49 local community groups and organisations to develop a bespoke plan which identified practical opportunities to improve the economic health of their area. Byers Green Club focused their CED plan around improvements to social care and transport opportunities for local people, increasing the local engagement of residents in two recently developed housing estates, and providing more amenities such as a community shop. See case study on MyCommunity.
Residents from the Collyhurst Big Local community in Manchester have been involved in growing vegetables locally and running food workshops with help from Groundwork, an environmental regeneration charity. With support from Co-operatives UK they are now developing the idea of setting up a community shop to sell locally grown produce.
Collyhurst resident Erica Walsh said: "We’re helping vulnerable people to grow food in the gardens next to the Church of the Saviour. It helps them to get out, be active, eat more healthily and they feel more positive and confident. We also recognised that we had lost many local shops and there was an opportunity to sell our local produce."