Huge thanks are due to the eighty plus people who took part in the Sustainable and Resilient Rural Communities Conference at Stoodleigh Court near Tiverton, Devon on the 4th Dec. The Conference organised by the Devon Towns Forum and Devon Rural Network with the support of the influential Carnegie UK Trust was always going to be a winner and it didn’t disappoint.
The conference boasted an engaging and varied programme with displays from a dozen of the regions top organisations. Addressing the conference Cllr. Andrew Leadbetter, representing John Hart Leader of Devon County Council said, “I have been genuinely impressed with the messages and hard work of the organisations represented here and the County Council will do all it can to support you in your important work”
From the outset this conference hit the mark with Dr Kate Braithwaite MBE of the Carnegie UK Trust headlining on the importance of sustained Community Involvement and Participation, going on to list a raft of achievements from; the Devon Heartlands Community Engagement Forum in West Devon to Community Land Trusts and the future of Cornwall’s Claylands amongst many excellent examples of Communities adding real value.
Other speakers included Ciaran Lynch from the Tipperary Institute in the Republic of Ireland who came especially to speak about the need for serious and structured engagement between Planners and Communities. Trevor Cherrett spoke for the Commission for Rural Communities on the Rural Coalition, Dr Juliet Rose and Dr. Tony Kendle from the Eden Claylands Project spoke about creative community empowerment followed by Gill Westcott who spoke about Transition Towns.
Community Land Trust Guru Bob Patterson and Karen Bridgford from Devon County Councils Reinvestment Service took people through a toolkit to make developing a Community Owned Asset easier while Ally Rood outlined the Sustainable Communities Toolkit. Later these issues were teased out in group sessions led by the experts with follow up actions being eagerly sought.
Bob Buxton Chairman of the Devon Towns Forum and Philip Wagstaff Chair of the Rural Network stressed that only by working collaboratively can organisations hope to keep costs down and direct their energies more effectively for the benefit of our rural communities; a good example of this is the new approach to Rural Proofing offered by the Rural Network.
Paul Delahoy Director of the Devon Towns Forum said “This was one of those conferences where people didn’t wriggle in their seats or leave in their droves after lunch; indeed the mood was so positive and upbeat you could see people really enjoyed engaging with these important issues throughout the day”
Closing the conference Cllr. Paul Diviani was fulsome in his appreciation of the clear and realistic approach of the Towns Forum and Rural Network. Bob Buxton commented “we are really grateful for the interest taken by Cllr. Leadbetter and Cllr. Diviani and are hugely encouraged that we are on the right track with our message of efficiency and collaborative working”
Paul Delahoy and Ewen Rae Carnegie RARP Partners Devon Heartlands CDT