Community Plan Highlights
Whitley Big Local Community Plan: December 2014 – December 2022
What is Big Local?
Big Local is an idea run by the Local Trust, which has over £200 million pounds from the Big Lottery Fund and several partners to provide residents in 150 areas around England the opportunity to get involved and make a lasting investment in their community. The aim is to bring together local talent and ambitions, skills and energy from not just individual residents but from local organisations, businesses and groups. It is not about the local governmental organisations coming in and telling us what needs to be done, and it is not about one group monopolising the money to get what they want for themselves. The investment needs to be for the long term, sustainable and inclusive for the whole population of the Big Local area.
The aims of Big Local can be summarised into four key areas:
- Communities will be better able to identify local needs and take action in response to them.
- People will have increased skills and confidence so that they can continue to identify and respond to local needs in the future.
- The community will make a difference to the needs it prioritises.
- People will feel that their area is an even better place to live.
Each local project needs to fit their ideas and vision for their area into these Big Local aims. The process by which this is done, as described by Big Local nationally, includes;
- Getting people involved – spreading the word and engaging residents
- Community vision – how a community might change for the better
- Forming a partnership – a diverse range of residents and local organisations with a majority of partnership members being residents
- Creating a Big Local plan – proposals to spend the £1m over a ten year period
- Delivering the Plan – providing activities, services, loans, social investment etc
- Collecting evidence on progress and evaluating the plan and partnership
The process involves making a massive and lasting difference to the Big Local area, bringing together all local talent and ambitions to make a better place to live.
Big Local in Whitley
The Whitley Big Local area (shown in red on the map) is that which was defined by Big Local when selecting Whitley to receive money. The £1million must be spent within this area. Around this is the Area of Benefit (shown in green on the map), Big Local money can not be spent out in this wider area but we hope and expect the wider community from this area to benefit from and be able to participate in the Big Local project.
Whitley Community Development Association (WCDA)
Local residents formed themselves into a constituted group, the Whitley Community Development Association (WCDA), which will act as the steering group for the Whitley Big Local project.
Anyone living within the Big Local Area or the Area of Benefit can become a member of WCDA.
WCDA members elected some residents to act as the committee. All meetings and decisions take place within an agreed framework set out in our constitution. Any member can be part of the committee if they want to but, on the other hand, we recognise that some people just want to volunteer and do the hands-on stuff and leave all the admin and organisational work to others. Any level of involvement is good and everyone is welcome.
Several members of the committee volunteered for further training and undertook and completed a City & Guilds level 3 qualification in Community Development to help us better understand and apply community development principles and best practice in our work in the hope of truly achieving long term benefits for Whitley.
Community development is not about doing things to people or for them, it means being a facilitator to allow them to do it for themselves.
WCDA has formed a Big Local Partnership with local organisations. The partnership has the role of overseeing all Big Local work carried out in Whitley and making sure that everything is done in the best interests of local people.
Our Partners are:
- AgeUK Berkshire New Directions
- Affinity Northumberland Training Academy
- Aspire2 Punjabi Community Association
- Berkshire Community Foundation Readibus
- Berkshire Credit Union Reading Borough Council (Councillors)
- FAITH Christian Group Reading Voluntary Action
- Food4Families/RISC South Reading Children’s Centre Cluster
- Hexham Community Centre Talentino
- The University of Reading
What have we done so far?
Our Big Local rep, John Ord, has been in Whitley for nearly two years now. Much of that time has been spent working with local people and finding out what it is that we want and need for the future. During this time we have:
- Involved nearly 1000 local people in our consultation work
- started our own local newspaper The Whitley Way
- run a pilot project with the Berkshire Credit Union offering small savings and loans for tenants
- worked in partnership with the University of Reading to run a feasibility study into setting up a community transport system for Whitley
- set up the Whitley Museum
- commissioned surveys into local vacant land with the idea of turning it into community spaces
- begun refurbishment of the bar area of the South Reading Youth and Community Centre on Northumberland Avenue and opened a cafe there
- written our Community Plan, which is a detailed document telling the story of Big Local in Whitley, what we have done so far and what we will do next
- provided a grant of £1732 to Food 4 Families to pay for a Whitley Growallot tutor for a year, and assisting them with securing a 5 year Big Lottery grant for further food growing work
How will the £1million be spent?
The residents of Whitley have been very clear about what they want for the future:
- A cafe
- A better community centre that people feel belongs to them
- better transport
- more opportunities for creating a better life
- to be proud of where we live
We have already made a start on creating these things. The Whitley Cafe opened on the 24th January, our committee are in talks with the council about renovating the community centre, and the community transport study has been completed and will be launched soon.
In the next few years the £1million will be spent how Whitley people want it. This is what the financial breakdown looks like at the moment:
- £200,000 to pay for a community development worker to take on the day to day work of running the project, to cover all costs associated with carrying out the work, training volunteers, and producing the Whitley Way.
- £30,000 to complete the renovation of the community cafe.
- £250,000 to fund a Small Grants Programme so that local people can take charge of our their own future and design their own projects, set up their own groups and achieve for themselves the change they want to see happen. Whitley people don’t need others telling them what to do, they have their own ideas. The Big Local money is the tool to bring these ideas to life.
- £100,000 as a start-up fund to get a local community transport system running for Whitley.
- £370,000 to set up a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) to provide credit and financial services to local people, local businesses, and to fund the redevelopment of a community centre.
The remainder of the money will be kept as a contingency fund to make sure none of the projects gets into difficulty.
What can you do?
Local people are at the heart of Big Local. The money is spent by the residents, for the residents. It’s not for big businesses, or outside organisations, it’s not for councils, or charities or individuals, it’s for the community of Whitley.
Do you want to volunteer at the cafe? Can you distribute newspapers? Are you good at keeping accounts and taking care of money? Do you have clerking skills or experience of being a secretary? Can you do odd jobs, fix things, decorate? Can you write newspaper articles or take photos? Can you design web pages? Are you a community leader who can give a voice to people who aren’t often heard? Can you run a book club, gardening club, storytime for children, or any group that brings people together? Are you good at negotiating, working on a team and arguing for what is right and what your people need?
The people of Whitley are incredibly talented, skilled and resourceful, we have many people who have set up their own businesses, lots of single parents working hard for their families, older people with decades of knowledge and experience to share, we have lots of bright young people who will be the community of tomorrow, and lots of people who have started new lives here from far away. We have what it takes to make Whitley the most amazing place to live. YOU have what it takes to make Whitley an amazing place to live, if there is something you want to do now is the time to do it.
The full Whitley Big Local community plan is available here. We have also made it available to read at several local places. If you would like to read it please drop in to the Community Cafe, Whitley Library, or Hexham Community Centre.