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January 28, 2015

Real community planning

Over the years, several communities across Scotland have set about producing local plans of one sort or another. These plans usually aim to reflect the aspirations and priorities of local people but the extent to which these practical demonstrations of genuine community planning receive the full backing of their local authorities and other public bodies has been patchy. A recent initiative in East Ayrshire appears to have full Council buy-in. Now that the first tranche of these plans has been completed, it’ll be interesting to see how the council’s support translates into real impact on the ground.



Suzanne Brodie, East Ayrshire Council

East Ayrshire Council’s Vibrant Communities has a dedicated team of Community Workers who support local communities through a process which will empower and build the capacity of local people and facilitate the development of a five year community led action plan.

Work is already underway to support the development of locally led action plans in every one of East Ayrshire’s communities over the next three years. This approach underpins the Council’s aspiration to transform our relationship with the communitie we serve, ensuring that communities are empowered to plan, prioritise and progress community led regeneration in their area.

Initial funding from Ayrshire LEADER Rural 21 Programme has enabled six of East Ayrshire’s communities to participate in a short term local area planning programme to provide them with the skills and confidence to take a more proactive role in shaping the future of their community.

East Ayrshire Council has been working in partnership with STAR Development Group and the Coalfields Regeneration Trust to build capacity and understanding of the approach. STAR Development Group has a strong track record in facilitating this work within local communities across Scotland and Ireland and in East Ayrshire the group facilitated the initial development of the Dalmellington Local Action Plan.

The programme aims to

• provide rural communities with an opportunity to participate in planning for their future

• generate more involvement and interest in communities from local residents, businesses, organisations and other stakeholders

• create sustainable community-led action plans

• enable communities to be partners in their own development

• assist communities in seeking additional funding to support projects identified within their plans

• encourage innovation and co-operation within communities across Ayrshire

The Process

The first step in the process is to establish a local steering group to lead the community. Typically membership of the steering groups includes representation from community councils; community associations and uniformed organisations; schools, youth organisations and parent/teacher associations; tenants’ and residents’ groups; church representatives and local businesses.

Once established, the steering group will develop and distribute a household survey to determine what local people think about their own community. A community profile is also prepared. As part of the consultation process, local stakeholders are identified and interviewed. All responses are analysed and the findings are fed back to the community before the action plan is finalised. The final stage in this planning process is the launch of the action plan.

With specialist, dedicated support from staff within East Ayrshire Council’s Vibrant Communities Team, six communities have finalised their individual plans as part of the initial launch phase of the programme.

These include:

• New Cumnock

• Logan, Lugar and Cronberry

• Mauchline

• Newmilns

• Fenwick

• Darvel

Work is well underway to develop further action plans in communities across East Ayrshire with the vision to offer every community the opportunity to develop a plan by 2016.

Some common themes have emerged from the initial six communities to participate in the process:

• roads and transportation

• local economy and tourism

• heritage and environment

• housing

• community activity and facilities


This rewarding approach brings many benefits for the communities involved:

• more people want to take part in shaping the future of their community

• changing and more sophisticated leadership within communities

• communities becoming more proactive and less reactive

• communities becoming partners in their own development

• a wide range of community projects and initiatives

• greater ability for communities to partner with public agencies to deliver services

• increased membership of existing local groups

• creation of new community organisations

• increased local capacity to develop and manage community projects