We want to see:
- A thriving voluntary sector and active communities who take the initiative to help the most vulnerable
- People playing a greater role in determining the future of their communities
- Improved wellbeing, physical and mental health
- Accessible countryside and green spaces
Why was this a priority for 2016/17?
We are actively supporting families and communities to create better links, become more self-sufficient and sustainable and able to deal with the changing landscape in terms of, for example, the ageing population and reduced funding in public services. Our approach is to help prevent problems from developing or even better still, to stop them from happening in the first place. We do this by creating connections throughout our communities, providing assistance through grant funding and working with our partners to provide a holistic approach to empowering communities. This section covers our activities under the headings:
Making connections in the community
In line with our Families and Communities strategy, the councils work with local communities to identify and implement initiatives in local areas that help to build community capacity and resilience, as well as improving outcomes for local residents. By building on the strengths of individuals, families and communities, our aim is to support communities in caring for themselves, rather than requiring costly public service interventions. Much of the work detailed in this section contributes to our equality objective to ensure we have ‘a thriving voluntary sector who take the initiative to help the most vulnerable’.
|Social Prescribing Pilot in Haverhill – Life Links
||This pilot is an innovative new approach where individuals are referred for non-clinical support to promote wellbeing and resilience, becoming less reliant on primary and statutory services but increasing their use and knowledge of the voluntary and community sector as a means of support. A case study providing further details is attached.
|Brandon Day Centre
- In August 2016, we were made aware that the Brandon Day Centre would be closing down as the provider at the time had decided to withdraw services.
- The centre was supported by Brandon Community Association (BCA) and residents of the town. It had become an important part of the lives of service users and their families. It provided service users with a safe environment to see friends, enjoy some entertainment and have a meal while it also provided respite and support to families and carers.
- In partnership with Suffolk County Council, Forest Heath District Council worked hard to ensure that the day centre should remain open. We formed a steering group which included representatives from BCA, Brandon Town Council and councillors from Suffolk County Council and Forest Heath.
- A new provider was found by Suffolk County Council and their approach was focused on delivering services in a sustainable way and becoming part of the local community.
- The new provider became a member of the steering group which meant they had the benefit of key information and could make important links and contacts across the town.
- There have been positive steps since the new provider took over the day centre in January 2017 with user numbers increasing. Funds are also being raised for a new minibus which will be supported by locality budget money from Forest Heath councillors and funding streams recommended by the two councils.
- This is an excellent example of a service being saved through the passion and commitment of the local community, with support from the district and county councils.
|The Shed, West Row
- A piece of land in West Row was identified as having potential for a community garden. A team of community volunteers were formed known as ‘The Shed’ with the main aim of:
- leasing the land from Suffolk County Council;
- renovating buildings and the area into a community facility; and
- providing a place for communities to enjoy.
- Together with Community Action Suffolk, we became involved with championing the project, assisting with the legalities of transferring the land and assisting with sources of funding for the future.
- We are pleased to report that the lease was secured in late 2016 and work has since begun on the area, with volunteers clearing a large piece of the land and uncovering a number of outbuildings.
- We will report on work as it progresses over the next few months. The main aim will be to provide a multi-use area including toilet facilities, kitchen, tea room, outbuildings, community gardens, sensory gardens, arts and crafts, wildlife areas and conservation.
- This project has already provided a valuable opportunity for people in the community to work alongside skilled tradespeople.
|Newmarket history and connections
- This public engagement project involved people living in and around Newmarket to reveal personal histories, stories and legacies of the area and share them with the rest of the community to encourage a sense of belonging and a celebration of the town.
- We worked with Spinning Wheel Theatre Company who delivered the project and they created opportunities to encourage participation.
- Almost 1200 people took part in the project including 73 children listening to and creating stories and three primary schools were involved in workshops focusing on creating stories and building a family portrait.
- This has been a successful and well received project and outcomes have included residents of Newmarket participating in shared activities and creating a sense of common vision for the local area.
|Community facilities in Lackford
- Lackford village is made of up over 100 homes, however, there was no community facility to host the variety of activities, groups and clubs that take place there.
- The Parish Council Committee decided to form a working group and fundraise to transform the Church Bell Tower and old boiler room into a community hub.
- Over a four year period, the residents of Lackford have raised significant funds towards this much needed project.
- In 2016/17, St Edmundsbury Borough Council has supported the project with funding from
- the Rural Initiatives Grants Scheme and from a ward member Locality Budgets, while the Council has also provided advice and contacts.
- This is an excellent example of a community working together, taking ownership of a problem and finding a solution. The building work has commenced and in future we will report on how this progresses and how the facility is used.
|St Mary’s Church, Haverhill
- As well as religious purposes, this church is used for a number of clubs and activities. The church wanted to be able to extend the activities available for a summer children’s club and the weekly mother and toddler group.
- St Edmundsbury was able to provide advice on the equipment that would be required and licensing for showing films in the community.
- New equipment was purchased, with the help of Locality Budget funding, which will provide a new facility for use in the community.
|Bury St Edmunds town centre masterplan – Community co-production
- A section on the Bury St Edmunds town centre masterplan has been included in the economic growth section of this document. There is, however, a community co-production element to this work.
- At a very early stage it was decided that the masterplan would be co-produced with the people who live in, work in and visit the town centre. As the population grows we understand that the town centre needs to meet the needs of everyone who uses it.
- We arranged for a meeting of the Bury Assembly of Associations (formed of all the residents’ associations working across the town) and an Accessibility Group consisting of ten organisations that support and/or advocate people with additional needs. The discussions and feedback from these meetings was shared with the consultants appointed to the project, and this then helped form the Issues and Options report. The report sets out an analysis of the initial issues and options for Bury St Edmunds town centre. It represents a key stage in the production of the masterplan for the town centre and was subject to a public engagement exercise where we went out to the market, the supermarkets, the leisure centre and The Apex, all with a view of encouraging people to have their say.
- The results of this are now being analysed and will be used to inform the draft masterplan which will then be subject to further public engagement in the summer. Updates will be available as this work progresses.
|Haverhill Youth survey
- The Youth Action Group for Haverhill, which is led by the Town Council, wanted to conduct a survey of young people specifically asking about cultural activities that young people want to take part in.
- Suffolk County Council was already involved in a schools project and we were able to use that engagement to feed into the Haverhill Youth Survey.
- The collaboration resulted in young people from Samuel Ward Academy developing the questionnaire and the partnership between the three councils ensured the survey was widely advertised.
- We gained some excellent feedback from the survey and some key points have already been actioned. One example related to feedback as to why young people were not attending sessions as frequently as had been hoped at the leisure centre. That feedback led to new furniture and charging sockets for IT devices being installed in a ‘chill out’ area of the leisure centre.
- The Apex are now working with the Town Council on a variety of projects including film workshops, music heats and spoken word events.
|West Suffolk Parish Conference
- We held our first West Suffolk Town and Parish Conference for town and parish councils from across west Suffolk to update one another and discuss a range of issues.
- The conference is interactive, exchanging information, taking part in workshops and networking with each other and partner organisations.
- In 2016/17 discussions included affordable housing and changes to the Local Government landscape.
|Newbury Community Centre transfer
- St Edmundsbury Borough Council has continued working with the Newbury Community Association, (NCA), Suffolk County Council, Havebury Housing Partnership and the local community to ensure the replacement of the Newbury Community Centre is designed by the community to meet their requirements. The old community centre has been important for local residents therefore it has been a priority to ensure its design is shaped by the people it serves.
- In 2016/17, two community consultations have been held which consisted of drop-in sessions and an online survey. Over 100 responses were received. The feedback revealed that there was very strong support for replacing the centre (around 90% of respondents). Many gave additional comments on issues such as design, layout, parking and traffic which the partners are now using to improve the scheme. As a result, the facility on the Howard Estate will be built on part of the former Howard Primary School site, in St Olaves Road. An outline planning application is due to be submitted later in 2017.
- The West Suffolk Community Chest has been the main funding mechanism available to voluntary and community sector groups across West Suffolk. It means they can apply for funding to do work that will bring benefits to local people and which will help the West Suffolk councils achieve their priority of supporting families and strengthening communities to enable them to become more resilient and more able to help themselves. In so doing, Community Chest funding has formed a key part of our Families and Communities agenda.
- In total, £417,522 has been paid to voluntary groups and organisations across West Suffolk in 2016/17 to support their valuable work.
- sets out the organisations that have received Community Chest funding across West Suffolk in 2016/17.
- Our locality-based approach to community development is supported by our Locality Budget scheme, where councillors each have an annual budget of £2500 that they can allocate to community groups and activities in their ward. Locality Budgets help residents take ownership of issues that they care about and help councillors ensure that funding gets to the heart of these issues.
- In 2016/17 West Suffolk councillors contributed more than £155,000 towards over 300 initiatives and projects in their wards areas. From supporting the Newmarket library to the Discover Moreton Hall walk/run route. A full list of projects funded by councillors, together with information about how the scheme works can be found on our Open Data and transparency webpage – this webpage is regularly updated with information about the latest projects that we support.
|Rural Initiatives Grant Scheme
- St Edmundsbury offers the Rural Initiatives Grant Scheme to match fund organisations for one-off specific capital projects in rural areas that contribute towards the Council’s priorities.
- During 2016/17 £69,501 was committed towards ten projects for purposes such as the conversion of part of Lackford church into a community facility (as described earlier), Hargrave Parish Council for a play area refurbishment, Bradfield St George Village Hall for heating system improvements and Stradishall Parish Council for the purchase of recreation land.
Parks and green spaces
We are proud of our parks and open spaces which have again been recognised at a national and local level. This would not be possible without the dedication of volunteers who spent some 7000 hours working in our parks and green spaces during 2016/17.
|Achievements in this year across West Suffolk include:
- A management plan for Yellow Brick Road in Newmarket has been prepared, which will see this central walkway regenerated and improved. It has the potential to become an important wildlife corridor and provide an enjoyable walk for local people to access the town and residential areas.
- The Beck Row Football changing rooms on Aspal Close Nature Reserve have been replaced, providing smart new facilities for local and visiting teams. This new sports facility was paid for by using section 106 funding from Suffolk County Council.
- The Beck Row Community Centre needed to vacate its premises at the local school. A new community hall facility, which will be managed by the parish council, will now be provided in the former Rose and Crown pub. This new community facility is being funded by Suffolk County Council.
- Multi-use games areas were upgraded at Warren Close, Brandon; Douglas Place, Mildenhall; and Heathersett Way, Lakenheath.
- A series of wildlife audits have been conducted at sites important to nature conservation across West Suffolk.
- The Abbey Gardens, East Town Park in Haverhill, Nowton Park and West Stow Country Park have again been awarded green flag status which means they are safe, clean and well looked after.
- Bury St Edmunds achieved the gold award in Anglia in Bloom and both Nowton Park and the Abbey Gardens were placed top of their respective categories.
- A new play area on Hooper Square in Bury St Edmunds opened in December. We used the community co-production model to deliver the new play area which meant local people were involved throughout. Having voiced their concerns about the previous play area, they helped choose the most appropriate location for the new play area, as well as the equipment to go in it. We worked alongside the Westley Residents’ Association to design flyers that were distributed to every household on the Westley Estate and a consultation event was attended by over 50 people. A new multi-use games area is also now open.
- The play area at Julian Close in Haverhill was refurbished and pupils from the local school were consulted on how this should look.
- New equipment was installed at play parks at St Peter’s Pit and the Gainsborough Recreation Ground in Bury St Edmunds.
- The play area in East Town Park was also refurbished this year. The visitor centre on site was reconfigured to provide a refreshment kiosk which now overlooks the play area.
- In partnership with Abbeycroft Leisure we have established the The Discover Moreton Hall: Run Walk Route which is a sign posted five kilometre route around Moreton Hall to support running and walking activity. The route is marked with small round signs that are fixed on existing lamp posts slightly above head height. There are also plans for a similar route in Brandon.
- We have also been assisting the County Council Rights of Way Team and the River Lark Catchment Group in creating a new link path along the River Lark corridor across a site currently owned and managed by British Sugar. St Edmundsbury is about to agree Heads of Terms that will give a 99 year lease for the river corridor.
Arts, heritage and leisure
|Maximising our assets
- The eagerly awaited National Horseracing Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art at Palace House in Newmarket was officially opened by Her Majesty the Queen in November 2016. This was the culmination of ten years of partnership work between many individuals and trusts from across the horseracing industry, Suffolk County Council and Forest Heath District Council, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
- The Breaking New Ground Partnership obtained Heritage Lottery Funding of £1.5 million over three years to deliver a range of exciting heritage and landscape projects in the heart of the Brecks, including Brandon and West Stow, aimed at promoting the heritage of the Brecks. At Brandon, we delivered the Forest Festival held in June 2016, which gave visitors the opportunity to get involved with a number of wildlife and nature activities. The Enchanted Forest held in August 2016 saw the Country Park transformed with a number of interactive activities, story-telling and arts and crafts.
- The partnership also wanted to deliver a unique schools project that would inspire, educate and entertain children, teachers and families with the story of the Brecks. Forest Heath District Council commissioned a new piece of interactive, educational theatre which was targeted at Key Stage 2 children. Nearly 1400 children from 14 schools across Norfolk and Suffolk saw the production. It also played at Brandon Country Park, West Stow and the Latitude Festival where a further 1026 people saw the play. The feedback from those that saw the play was positive with it described as both educational and engaging for children.
- Following the success of these events we are considering a second bid for funding next year.
- At West Stow, we delivered the Enchanted Heath event where over 2000 visitors could enjoy crafts, music, stories, guided tours and archery amongst other things.
- As part of the Enchanted Heath funding, West Stow also gained an added attraction in the form of the Beowulf and Grendel trail. This two kilometre trail winds through key Breckland features in the park and entwines the rich storytelling narrative of the early Anglo-Saxons and the unique landscape, including the Site of Specific Scientific Interest. An impressive three metre carved Dragon Head and 40 foot mound is the centrepiece on the Heath. The next phase is the installation of interpretation panels followed by a launch event in August 2017.
- St Edmundsbury obtained an Arts Council Resilience Grant of £108,000 for Moyse’s Hall Museum and West Stow. The funding will help fund staff and volunteer training, physical adaptations to the museum’s displays, the building of a shelter at West Stow to enable more school children to visit at any one time and display materials for outreach visits.
- In 2016, there has been an increase in visitors with Moyse’s Hall up by 3,624 tickets on last year, while West Stow is up by 4,009.
- For the period 2016/17, there were over 26,000 admissions to West Stow and over 20,000 admissions to Moyse’s Hall. Across both sites over 67,000 school children visited.
- We held very successful events at Moyse’s Hall where 17,263 people visited the Lego events and 3,603 people visited the Sci-fi event.
- We were delighted to welcome nearly 15,000 school pupils to West Stow, which made the final five in the National School Trip Awards 2016. West Stow was also used for filming on BBC CBeebies programme ‘Our Story’ which has had multiple showings on the children’s channel.
- The popular Ring Quest event took place during February half-term in 2017. Visitors could take part in a family trail around the country park, meet creatures from Tolkien’s Middle Earth, and try out archery. February 2017 saw recorded numbers since it started in 2002 with over 327 family packs sold and 1,675 visitors in February half-term week.
|Bury St Edmunds Guildhall transfer
- We have continued working with the Guildhall Feoffment Trust and Bury St Edmunds Heritage Trust Limited to pursue the long-term aim of making the Guildhall an independent and sustainable community enterprise.
- In May 2016, the project was awarded a grant of £669,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the refurbishment of the building which included repairing the rear roof and strengthening and restoring some of the ancient fabric. Match-funding from the project means that work started in January 2017 and will be completed in 2018.
- Once works are completed, the Guildhall will be managed entirely independently of the Borough Council, emphasising our commitment to supporting sustainable community asset transfers.
- The Apex continues to prove itself as one of the region’s leading destinations for live entertainment.
- In 2016, the Apex hosted over 200 shows and sold 90,000 tickets, which is an increase of 10,000 on the previous year.
- The box office took a total of £1.8 million over 2016/17 which is an increase of 14.5% on the previous year.
- We have concentrated our efforts on marketing including a successful gift voucher campaign in November and December 2016 which saw sales of over £18,000 (compared with £5,000 for the same period in 2014).
- The Apex has also continued to be an attractive offer for community use by groups including: baby ballet, post-natal yoga, amateur performances by local organisations, Sunday brunch, chess club and art displays.
- Our ‘reach’ on the internet is also expanding with the number of people receiving information about the Apex on Twitter and Facebook increasing with more unique users visiting the website.
Improved health and wellbeing
|Working with Abbeycroft Leisure, we deliver sports and leisure services across West Suffolk. Abbeycroft undertakes outreach work that contributes to our priorities and is in line with the Promoting Physical Activity Framework that was adopted in July 2016
Examples of projects that Abbeycroft has run in this year include:
- Stand tall – a 12 week physical activity and wellbeing programme that targets 14-25 year olds who are both inactive and known to suffer with a mental health condition. The outcome of this was that 78% of the individuals referred showed improved wellbeing.
- Monday mums – in partnership with community midwives, antenatal groups are held at Bury St Edmunds and Newmarket leisure centres. The programme seeks to educate and empower pregnant women who are overweight or obese to support them to have a healthy pregnancy and birth experience. This initiative has had both positive results and positive feedback from expectant mums and it is hoped that the programme will be replicated in more locations.
- Exercise on referral – this scheme has seen 467 people take part during 2016/17 across West Suffolk. There have been positive results with 57% of those clients who started, going on to complete the scheme. Of those that complete the scheme, 93% continue to remain active. Outcomes have included clients reducing blood pressure, weight and even medication.
- Keep active – key projects have been delivered in West Suffolk after £148,000 was secured from the Sport England Community Sport Activation Fund. The funding was secured for a three year period and the initiative will be rolled out to the different communities within Forest Heath over that period. The aim is to engage both the younger and older population with the aim of increasing participation in those target groups. Progress has so far seen:
- Community engagement sessions with the over 55 population across Newmarket. Taster sessions including bowls, badminton, short tennis and table tennis were used to generate interest. Successful walking football and walking netball sessions have also been developed. The youngest participants in this are 55 while the oldest is 92.
- The programme has also had a focus on the 14-25 population by providing opportunities to take part in sport and dance in an informal environment. Again the aim is to encourage increased physical activity and behaviour change. Sessions have taken place in Newmarket, Brandon and Mildenhall. The Mildenhall project reached its target for individual attendees. The success of this programme is party due to partnership working between Catch 22, local schools and youth groups.
- The council has agreed to create an investment fund that Abbeycroft Leisure can apply to for capital funding to improve and develop its facilities and reduce operating costs. As such, Abbeycroft Leisure is reviewing the current portfolio of leisure facilities and examining the
- possibilities for future development on those sites. This work will identify a facility mix that will aid both commercial development, broaden opportunities to co-locate with other stakeholders, engage a broader audience in different forms of physical activity and improve the quality of services to customers. The feasibility work is already underway and will be completed in 2017.
|Promoting physical activity
- West Suffolk councils recognise the importance of individuals and communities that are active as it improves health and wellbeing and, in time, can reduce the reliance on some services brought about by inactivity. We committed to our approach to increasing physical activity through our Promoting Physical Activity Framework that was adopted in July 2016.
- Through this framework, West Suffolk councils set out the commitment to enable and encourage people to lead active lives thereby increasing activity levels across West Suffolk. This will lead to improved health and wellbeing for our communities resulting in less reliance on health care services. The framework sets out the outcomes we want to see and how, with partners, we can use our role to increase participation in physical activity across West Suffolk.
- We also want to see holistic, place-based solutions across our towns and villages. We understand from talking to local sports clubs and organisations that there is a need to grow clubs in order to increase capacity, participation and realise their ambitions and potential.
- With match funding from St Edmundsbury Borough Council, Sport England provided £10,000 of feasibility study funding. This will be used to look at the possible options for a shared facility in Bury St Edmunds to meet the needs of local clubs. The study is being carried out by consultants and we are working in partnership with the sports clubs, Sport England and Abbeycroft Leisure to create an option for the future. We look forward to updating you on this work later in 2017.
|Suffolk Health and Wellbeing Board
- West Suffolk councils are members of the Suffolk Health and Wellbeing Board along with the county council, local clinical commissioning groups, NHS England, HealthWatch, the police, the voluntary sector and other district and borough councils. Although health outcomes for many people in Suffolk and West Suffolk are good, the board aims to help those groups and communities which experience poorer health and wellbeing than others.
- West Suffolk councils are contributing towards the board’s cross-cutting theme of community resilience – preventing issues before they become a problem. Experience shows that this prevention support is most effective when it comes through an established network within the local community.
- The Suffolk Community Resilience Steering Group hosted a series of workshops to support the development of a community resilience programme which builds on work already taking place across Suffolk. This engagement has resulted in a focus on four key areas:
- Personal responsibility
- Early help
- Community action
- Strong voluntary and community sector
- The community resilience programme forms part of the community strategies for boroughs and districts across Suffolk, such as West Suffolk’s Families and Communities Strategy. This is about a Suffolk-wide approach to community resilience that aims to eliminate duplication and see the boroughs and districts contributing to the health agenda in a holistic way.
- West Suffolk is also a priority lead for the Suffolk-wide Prevention Strategy, the only non-clinical organisation to do so. This illustrates the importance of ensuring that good health and wellbeing starts with individual and community responsibility and resilience.
- This work contributes towards our equality objective to improve physical and mental health and wellbeing.
|Dementia Action Alliance (DDA)
- A large group of stakeholders started working together as they wanted to create a Dementia Friendly Community (DFC) for Bury St Edmunds. This involved introducing Dementia Friends sessions to different organisations and the wider community. Dementia Friends sessions focus on what it is like to live with dementia and is used as an awareness raising tool. This enables individuals, businesses and the community to look at what they can do differently to accommodate the needs of someone living with dementia.
- We have helped by shaping the steering group and bringing in other successful DAAs to shape the best way to move forward for Bury St Edmunds. We have also supported this both by working to gain funding to be able to advertise and promote the DAA, and by bringing the Clinical Commissioning Group and other organisations on board to help with the roll out and promotion of creating a Dementia Friendly Community for Bury St Edmunds.
- The Steering group was formed in January 2017 and has already started to make progress with positive changes within Bury St Edmunds. Examples of this are:
- relaxed performances of films at Abbeygate Cinema;
- involvement in the Bury St Edmunds town centre masterplan; and
- enabling 12 different organisations to register an action plan with the Bury St Edmunds DAA.
Communicating with residents
Over the past year we have continued the implementation of our target operating model for customer contact with the councils, meaning that the team is able to handle queries about a range of services. This enables customers to have their questions answered at the first point of contact when at all possible.
Improvements in IT have also reduced the amount of staff time spent on handling routine transactions in the ‘back office’.
The list of services and activities now delivered by the Customer Service Team include housing options, elections (extended hours were offered in the run up to and day of the European Union referendum), planning helpdesk, building control, licensing, waste, garden waste collection service sign up, parking permits, The Apex, noise, dogs, complaints and Freedom of Information Act requests.
The availability of online forms has grown since 2013/14 when only a limited number of online forms were available. This means that our customers can enjoy the convenience of completing and submitting a form online when they need to contact us about a range of services, or make payments, including: garden waste, parking permits and noise complaints.
We remain committed to our vision to enable customers to ‘self-serve’ online when convenient and appropriate and we know that this has been a great success.
|Social media conversations
West Suffolk councils are embracing new methods of communicating, and the councils are proactively using social media to engage with residents. Information is tweeted to over 7000 followers giving other Twitter users the opportunity to share the news with their own followers. Their comments and enquiries are monitored and answered by the Customer Service Team and communications officers.
Tweets are also used to direct residents to more information posted on our website. The communications teams meanwhile have used Facebook to engage with a growing audience of nearly 60 community Facebook groups. Some of these groups have membership levels in excess of 15,000 people. Not only is there the potential for these individuals to share the councils’ status with friends, but even more importantly this offers the councils the opportunity to have direct conversations with residents, explain changes in more detail, expanding on the reasons that have led to them and politely correcting residents on statements that are misinformed or untrue.
A particular success was the launch of the Bury St Edmunds Town Centre Masterplan where we reached 23,189 people through a single post on Facebook alone. Although other posts were made throughout the public engagement stage, this launch post saw 109 shares, 126 likes, 1 dislike and a series of comments from around 50 individuals. While some of these comments were disparaging of the process, each of these types of comments were responded to in a polite and positive manner – the outcome of which led to more people seeing the post and some of the more sceptical of the audience being persuaded to take part online or attend one of our engagement events.