Charlton Kings Parish Council Community Development Scheme
September 2013 saw the opening of new facilities in the Church Piece area of Charlton Kings following a 6 month development programme undertaken by the Parish Council to enable it to better meet the needs of the community and significantly improve the quality of some local amenities.
Why did we undertake this?
Following Cheltenham Borough Council’s decision in 2011 to withdraw from providing public toilets and the Stanton Room Community Hall the Parish Council took the decision to try to continue to provide these services for the benefit of the local residents. At the same time the Parish office was situated in the local library which its self was under threat of closure or reduced opening hours and the accommodation available was not suitable to enable the Council to fulfil its functions adequately under the new Localism agenda. An opportunity to develop and improve services and create a new ‘hub’ facility became available when the Council secured a Local Government Loan.
What have we done?
Initially the Council continued to fund and manage the existing toilets and hall but quickly appreciated that they needed significant refurbishment to make them fit for purpose and economically viable. Planning permission was obtained and a new Parish Office and conference room has been added to the end and rear of the building along with a total rebuild of the public toilets and a thorough makeover of the Stanton Room, its kitchen and toilet. The Council was able to achieve all this within a very tight budget and minimal disruption to hall users and local businesses thanks to a cooperative and supportive approach by its contractor Farrdenn. By being independent of library opening hours the Council now has an office that it can open five days a week with access over the lunch hour.
What do we want to achieve?
Firstly the Parish wants to provide high quality and sustainable facilities for its community. The design of the new work has focused on energy efficiency, easy maintenance and quality fittings throughout and we hope users of the facilities will agree we have achieved this. It is hoped that the conference room will become a useful second hire facility for local businesses and other groups requiring a small meeting or seminar venue. The Council hopes that by providing greatly improved hire facilities lettings will increase which in turn will help secure the long term future of the project.
Of equal importance is our second aim to improve the level of service that the Parish is able to offer. With a limited precept budget the Parish has little in terms of financial expenditure it can use but it is hoping to increase its ability to facilitate access to local services offered by other providers. The new office and conference room gives us a significant first step to create a community hub which can act as a gateway to other services as well as its own. With easier access it is hoped the community will be better able to let the Parish know its various needs and priorities.
A significant first step is that the police have agreed to accept the offer of a shared occupancy to provide a base for a PCSO and a drop-in facility for locals to meet police representatives. The concept is being developed further and Gloucestershire Highways have already agreed to help develop a better interface to allow locals to report highway issues by calling in at the Parish Office hub. Approaches have also been made to the Village Agent scheme, Cheltenham Borough Homes and the CBC enforcement officer, all of whom have confirmed a desire to start developing the concept with the Parish. Our recently improved website will be further developed in the near future to incorporate on line hire booking of the Stanton Room and conference room and facilitate access to any new initiatives as they occur.
The Parish Council has successfully completed its first step in bringing about a changed approach and hopes that the local community will embrace the opportunity to help develop this concept further.