Putting together a plan for Belper’s future

Neighbourhood plan volunteers John Devine and Christine Blake
Neighbourhood plan volunteers John Devine and Christine Blake

A small group of volunteers in Belper is currently in the process of helping to produce a document that could have a huge impact on the town for generations to come.

Since last July, they have been busily consulting the public at dozens of meetings whose aim is to put together a neighbourhood plan for the unique town.

John and Christine hard at work in Christine's 'study'.

John and Christine hard at work in Christine's 'study'.

The plan, which voters will get their say on next May, will set out how the people of the town want it to develop over the next 10 years and beyond in a wide range of different ways.

One of them, 71-year-old Christine Blake, has responsibility for the plan’s economic development and employment strand as well as producing publications and managing publicity.

She said: “I got involved because I wanted to give something back to Belper as my husband and I have loved living up here - and it’s nice to carry on using your brain after you have retired as well!

“I also thought I had some skills that I thought could be of use. I used to work as an office manager in international trade and the oil industry in what would be called logistics now.”

Surrounded by lever arch files full of neighbourhood plan information, Christine says she is still glad she put her name forward, but that she didn’t realise the amount of work that would be entailed in it.

“I am currently working full time on it and if the whole project was being done by a company it would be the job of an entire department.”

“Belper is actually a very complex place - you have town and country and you have a world heritage site running through as well.

“We have a changed and a changing economy and there is, of course, always huge demand from developers wanting to build here.”

However, she says there is already good evidence to show that plans in other parts of the country are having a real impact and points to the example of St Ives in Cornwall which has just banned the building of second homes as part of its plan.

One thing the team definitely need, though, is more volunteers to help them during the next year.

“The more you do the more you realise the extent of the work involved,” she says.

For more information on the neighbourhood plan or to get involved email info@planforbelper or visit www.planforbelper.org.uk.

Creating a plan for Belper...

The whole process of creating a plan is intended to take the team just under two years.

After its first meeting last July, it began consulting the public on the six separate strands that will make up the final plan.

Voters are being asked to contribute in three separate ‘rounds’ of consultation beginning at general questions before progressing to detailed goals and ending at final presentation.

The next big event is a drop-in session for businesses of all shapes and sizes at St John’s Chapel on Wednesday June 22 between 2-8pm.

The final plan will be presented to the public in a referendum - currently pencilled in for next May - before formal adoption by the council.

However, Christine says this timescale is not ‘set in stone’ and more time is available if required.

“We think it’s more important to have a good plan than a quick plan,” she says.