Town asked to decide its future

A COMMUNITY has the chance to shape its own future thanks to £20,000 worth of funding.

The cash was awarded to Derbyshire Dales District Council and Wirksworth Town Council to be spent on developing Wirksworth.

The scheme is part of the government’s Localism Act, which gives communities more autonomy when it comes to shaping their own neighbourhoods.

The district council backed Wirksworth’s proposal to prepare its own plan last November and made the official bid to the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Communities minister Bob Neill announced the town had been selected for funding, and it now joins 232 other ‘frontrunner’ communities that have recently been working up plans and testing out the principles of neighbourhood planning.

Cllr Mike Ratcliffe, the district council’s ward member for Wirksworth, said: “It’s an opportunity to get people talking about the town - simple as that.

“This is a comprehensive view that people can take of Wirksworth.

“They will have the chance to put down a plan that would have some strategic value and would be able to influence the local authority as to the direction the community wants to see the town develop in and how to realise that.”

The money will be used to pay for a consultation with residents, which is due to start after Easter, on what they would like to see in a plan for the town.

Cllr Ratcliffe said issues such as housing, recreational facilities and shops would be discussed as part of the consultation. Renewable energy will also be high on the list of priorities for the council.

“We still have a large number of houses that cannot use double glazing or solar panels,” Cllr Ratcliffe said. It’s a wider issue that I would like to see discussed.”

He said another issue that residents would be asked their opinion on is the possibility of a supermarket coming to the town.

It will take approximately 18 months to prepare the plan and once it is complete it will lay out what residents want to see over the next 15 years or so.

A district council spokesman said: “The district council is pro neighbourhood planning, but is resourced to deal with only one plan at a time. 

“Wirksworth is the district council’s neighbourhood planning project for 2012/13, and we are looking forward to working with another neighbourhood in 2013/14.”