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Full chapter:

Introduction

About this report

Local Trust commissioned a longitudinal multi-media evaluation of Big Local in early 2015. The evaluation, “Our Bigger Story”, is planned to run from 2015 through to 2025.

This report maps progress in the evaluation sample of 15 Big Local areas from 2015 to 2016. It explores the approach, delivery, outcomes, impact and influence of Big Local across the 15 areas, and the principles that underpin Big Local as a resident-led, asset based approach to place based development.

Report structure

This section, Section 1, provides an introduction to the 15 areas that participated as case study sites in 2015 and 2016. Section 2 explores what is working and overall progress against the Big Local outcomes across the 15 evaluation areas. Section 3 outlines how Big Local works, the Big Local approach and principles. Section 4 reflects on the key themes that emerged from the first year of evaluation activity across Our Bigger Story areas (issues, for example of leadership, influence, expectations and legacy). Section 5 provides analysis of the strengths of, and challenges facing, an ambitious programme based on the principles of resident led changes. Section 6 then summarises key learning to date – and identifies emerging issues for future consideration.

Where direct quotations from interviews have been used in the report, these are used to illustrate a view wider than that of any one individual or Big Local area. All quotes are attributed to the role of the speaker i.e. partnership member, resident (where not a partnership member), paid worker, delivery partner, Locally Trusted Organisation (LTO), Big Local rep and Local Trust.

A detailed account of evaluation methods and processes is provided in Appendix 1.

Thumbnail sketches of the 15 areas

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Barrowcliff Big Local
Barrowcliff is a social housing estate of 2,900 people, sitting high on a hill overlooking Scarborough, a seaside town. The Steering Group that overseas Barrowcliff Big Local has five wishes: a cleaner environment; better community facilities; good education and jobs; improving health and lifestyle; community safety (including community pride and neighbourliness).

Scarborough Jobmatch (part of Groundwork North Yorkshire) is the Locally Trusted Organisation (LTO) for Barrowcliff Big Local acting as the accountable body for the funding, drawing it down from Local Trust and distributing it to groups as needed. To date, Local Trust has ‘paid’ £500,915 to Barrowcliff Big Local.

Examples of activities
Barrowcliff’s flagship project was the creation of a play park in the centre of the housing estate, along with traffic calming measures near the park and the school. It has supported a number of activities, through commissions to organisations and through grants to local groups, around giving people the confidence and skills which in turn help their employment prospects. These include courses to help people get the CSCS cards they need to work on construction sites, a job match project and its ‘Biggest Loser’ project (a weight loss course). It is working with the local school to provide different approaches to educating local children.

Making a difference
The park has helped local residents realise that change can happen and it has helped to improve the image of the estate. Barrowcliff Big Local is providing opportunities that local people might not otherwise access e.g. its support for accessible cycling and the locally run and locally appropriate weight loss programme. There is evidence of people finding employment through their involvement in Big Local.

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Birchfield Big Local
Birchfield is situated on the northern edge of Birmingham’s inner city. The Big Local area covers an area with a population of 7,200 people. Housing tenure is mixed with a high proportion of Housing Association properties and houses in multiple occupation. It is a diverse community in which 54% of the population is of Asian origin and 45% of local residents are under 25 years old.

Birchfield’s Big Local plan, which was endorsed in February 2014, and Plan Review (2015) identify four themes focused on physical improvements, cultural heritage, improving local services and levels of participation, as well as developing the local economy. The Locally Trusted Organisation (LTO) is Birmingham Voluntary Service Council. To date, Local Trust has ‘paid’ £392,639 to Birchfield Big Local.

Examples of activities
Much of the Big Local’s work is being delivered through the commissioning of local social enterprises and by volunteers. For example, ATHAC CIC are supporting families with disabled children and BRAG (Birchfield Residents Action Group), a local voluntary organisation, are leading on Birchfield in Bloom, and the Livingston Road allotment project works with vulnerable adults. Volunteers have been recruited to help run Stepping Forward (which combines a job club with help with conversational English and basic IT), a Women’s Group (encouraging local women to share skills and knowledge) and the development of a Birchfield Heritage Trail. In partnership with UnLtd, Birchfield has supported local residents in exploring setting up social enterprises, and 6 ventures have so far achieved a Star People Award.

Birchfield Big Local recently completed a Community Asset Survey to identify potential buildings or land that could be developed as a community centre, and is considering becoming incorporated as a way of managing that asset.

Making a Difference
To date Birchfield Big Local have recruited over 30 regular volunteers who have been supporting local residents with benefits advice and access to employment support. Working with the City Council and Midland Heart Housing substantial environmental improvements have been made to the area. This has included not only winning Britain in Bloom awards but also addressing issues of street litter and fly tipping. Support for the Women’s Group and ATHAC CIC has played a considerable role in overcoming social isolation amongst vulnerable groups in the community whilst the Heritage Trail has increased pride in the area.

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Blackpool Revoe Big Local
Revoe is situated about half a mile from Blackpool sea front. Revoe Big Local covers an area of 3,000 people and is a mix of long established residents alongside highly transient communities. Revoe is amongst the 10 most deprived neighbourhoods in England and, whilst predominantly white, has growing Muslim and Eastern European groups.

The LTO is Blackpool, Wyre and Fylde Council for Voluntary Service. To date, Local Trust has ‘paid’ £39,043 to Blackpool Revoe Big Local.

Examples of activities
Revoe’s Big Local plan was approved in January 2016 and the areas of work focus on environmental improvements, community safety, local business development and opportunities. Revoe has adopted an open tendering process for the services it wishes to commission, in which tender proposals have to state clearly how the organisation intends to bring added value to Revoe Big Local. There is also a strong emphasis on health and wellbeing – in particular in addressing drug and alcohol use locally. Examples of activities include working with local shopkeepers to improve the frontages on the main Central Drive, a range of community safety measures (including CCTV and improving shop front security), Hepatitis C local drop-in sessions and drug support and counselling services.

Making a difference
It is early days for Revoe Big Local. Contracts for service delivery have only recently been awarded with work commencing in the late summer of 2016. What is evident is the commitment of the partnership to take on the difficult issues of drugs and alcohol locally, especially as there has been agreement across the community as to the importance of tackling drugs and alcohol use – but no agreement on how best to do so. The aim is to develop the hub at Ibbison Court into a thriving community Resource Centre. Two key developments in the immediate future will be the commissioning of outreach youth work and the appointment of a Community Work Apprentice to enhance and broaden community engagement.

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Bountagu Big Local
Bountagu Big local is in Lower Edmonton, North London. The name Bountagu comes from the two key roads in the area (Bounces Road and Montagu Road) and the community hub sits almost on the corner of the two. The Bountagu area covers about 1,500 households and 5,200 residents. There are three social housing estates within Bountagu – both owner occupied and privately rented – as well as private housing. Often these houses have been split into flats.

The Bountagu mission is To Build the Community Together. The partnership believes in generating a cooperative culture where people can give or exchange skills and services, building the capacity of the community to help itself, rather than commissioning others to deliver services. Its core focus is to build a Bountagu community, alongside priorities of children and young people, people 50 plus, enterprise and employment, environment and facilities. Sustainability and legacy is also something the partnership intends to plan for over the next couple of years.

The LTO is Enfield Children and Young Persons Services (ECYPS), a voluntary sector support organisation which is based in the local area. To date, Local Trust has ‘paid’ £201,025 to Bountagu Big Local.

Examples of activities
Bountagu is taking a community development approach in delivering the plan with a small number of part-time staff to engage and develop local residents and volunteers. Bountagu's community hub is a major resource for hosting activities and has a diverse group of people making use of the space. These include coffee mornings, young people’s groups, ESOL classes, a job club and social enterprise support. In addition, there is a clean up project, an ‘Over 50s Buddying Service’, an annual community festival, and outreach work through door knocking in the local community and work with schools.

Making a difference
Residents talk about people feeling more relaxed and positive about where they live; there are examples of increased neighbourliness and people from different communities integrating with each other; many people have been helped into work through training, employment and enterprise advice provided by Bountagu Big Local.

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Catton Grove Big Local
Catton Grove is an area of approximately 6,200 people situated one mile north of Norwich City Centre. The Big Local area falls within two electoral wards, both of which are classed as areas of high deprivation. The main Catton Grove estate was built in the 1930s and there are many longstanding families living there, though the Big Local area also includes private housing, some of which is buy to let. In recent years there has been an increasing Eastern European population.

The Big Local partnership has largely retained the priorities agreed following consultation at the start: building an active and vibrant community; access to employment and training; building a healthy community; activities and services for young people and activities and services for older people.

The LTO for Catton Grove Big Local is Voluntary Norfolk. Local Trust has ‘paid’ £165,929 to Catton Grove Big Local.

Examples of activities
Catton Grove has focused on gaining management control of a local unused police building and opened it as a community hub (‘The Box’) in 2016. The aim is to meet local needs in a local space. An organisation is commissioned to run advice, support and training sessions (e.g. a jobs club and digital skills) from there. There has been high demand for the services provided at The Box (including from residents from Eastern Europe, who have been previously difficult to engage with Big Local).

The partnership has taken a bottom up approach to delivering some of its priorities for example, community newsletters and a community allotment. In addition, children and young people’s activities are supported through centre based and outdoor youth work.

Making a difference
The advice sessions at the community hub, The Box, are supporting people with complex welfare rights and health issues. Members of the partnership say the most valuable thing has been making new friends and building relationships with people they wouldn’t have otherwise met.

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Grassland Hasmoor Big local
This Big Local area covers the two villages of Grassmoor in North East Derbyshire and Hasland in Chesterfield. These are two separate communities - Hasland has a population of 9,700 people and Grassmoor 3,850 - and the aim is to create closer links between the two through stimulating more local activity. Grassmoor, in particular, is an ex mining area where lots of social activities were on tap, and the challenge now is to encourage and support people to get on and make things happen themselves. The LTO is Links: the Chesterfield and North East Derbyshire Council for Voluntary Service and Action. To date, Local Trust has ‘paid’ £216,513 to Grassland Hasmoor Big Local.

Grassland Hasmoor Big Local (GHBL) has a base in both communities and has put up video screens in several well used venues to promote Big Local and what they are doing.

Key areas of work include:

  • People: Children & Young People; Working Age Families; Senior Citizens
  • Place: Green & Open Spaces; Living Environment; Community Facilities
  • Communication and Engagement

GHBL hopes/aims for match funding or its equivalent to be found for its larger projects in order to maximise its Big Local resources. Each activity area has a working group comprising volunteers.

Examples of activities
A lot of social initiatives are organised to try and bring people together through affordable activities and create more community spirit. These have included a children’s summer programme, a community cinema, intergenerational gardening activities, ‘Men in Sheds’, galas and local socials and trips. In the last year, a focus on poverty has led to welfare rights sessions, a holiday hunger project, and a monthly affordable meal for local families. In addition, residents are involved in environmental projects. There are plans to improve and maximise use of key buildings and facilities in each of the two villages, plus the development of a skate park.

Making a difference
The Green and Open Spaces working group has been successful in working with its local authorities and other agencies to open up pathways in the area, connecting the two areas and making them accessible to everyone. In 2016, school holiday activities were provided, primarily by volunteers, for four days over five weeks, including free lunches and snacks. The ‘Pit Stop Diner’ is proving very popular.

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Growing Together Big Local
This Big Local has 11,700 residents and covers the Blackthorn, Cherry Lodge, Goldings, Lings, Lumbertubs and Overstone Lodge estates in East Northampton, all built as part of the New Towns developments in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Growing Together has a vision to ensure that the estates are ‘great places in which to live and to grow up, where residents care for each other, the community and their environment‘. Its current priorities include investment in children and young people; improving the quality of life for older and disabled residents; creating a vibrant and exciting community for everyone; enhancing and protecting the local environment and bringing together the diverse and changing community, including new communities.

The LTO is a local community organisation, Blackthorne Good Neighbours. To date, Local Trust has ‘paid’ £801,811 to Growing Together Big Local.

Examples of activities
Growing Together has used more of its million than any of the other case study areas. It has been used to support three new play areas, two youth shelters with exercise equipment, a “trim trail” of outdoor exercise equipment, youth clubs outdoor activity youth programmes, film based youth programmes, wildlife information boards, the start-up costs for a new community nursery, clubs for older residents and for an inter-club Kurling league and a programme of trips. The Big Local partnership has also supported environmental and performance zones at a local school, establishing a community hub serving two of the estates and leading a major partnership project to make a brook that flows through two of the estates (and three lakes along its course) sustainable in the face of serious environmental pressures. It has also run a popular small grants fund and led the development of Neighbourhood Plan for the area approved in a local referendum on 23 February 2017 (other than staff time, the Neighbourhood Plan work was funded from outside the £1m Big Local allocation).

Making a difference
Growing Together estimates that by March 2016 it had funded 35 physical and community enhancements, 1600 hours of community activity, and supported 328 community groups and organisations. At least 38% of young people in the area (and probably a majority) had had at least one Growing Together funded experience, and evidence suggested that the older people’s clubs had transformed the quality of life for some very isolated people.

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Hanwell Big Local
Hanwell Big Local originally consisted of three peripheral estates in the London Borough of Ealing with a diverse population of some 7,800. Over 2016 the Big Local area was expanded to cover a fourth estate, bringing the total population closer to 10,000 people.

Hanwell Big Local partnership consists of eleven local residents of which three are agency representatives including the LTO, supported by a Project Co-ordinator.

The LTO is EASE, a long established community development charity. To date, Local Trust has ‘paid’ £111,428 to Hanwell Big Local.

Examples of activities
Hanwell Big Local’s plan was approved in November 2014 and has four core themes: accessibility (mobility and affordable service); health and leisure; the environment and employability; and enterprise. Initial activity, to promote the profile of Hanwell Big Local, focused on the disbursement of 14 small grants. Subsequent projects supported by the partnership include: an affordable door-to-door bus service for those who find it difficult to get about in the local area; youth activities; a horticultural/gardening apprenticeship scheme; support for residents to improve neglected communal gardens; and local businesses development. These have largely been delivered through a commissioning process involving local agencies identified in the original plan – e.g. Ealing Community Transport, Cultivate London & Piece of Green and EASE Youth Services: each with ambitious targets for matched funding. The partnership has also worked with local traders to improve the local retail offer and jointly sponsored the first Christmas event at the local shops to switch on the lights, the first in the area for over a decade.

Making a difference
The Horticultural Apprenticeship Scheme will be fully operational in 2017, offering two, two year, apprenticeships to local people. Ealing Council has also agreed to hand over an unused piece of land—Cheyne Path—and have provided match funding for them to develop a conservation area with residents. Other major developments in the area are Crossrail and two major regeneration projects of Local Authority housing stock – developments which the partnership is trying to influence. The major current issue is the planned management transfer of Hanwell Community Centre from local authority control. Hanwell Big Local has supported the development of a local consortium to bid for management of this substantial asset and a decision on this tender is due in 2017.

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Lawrence Weston Big Local
Lawrence Weston is a peripheral estate to the west of Bristol and at the edge of Avonmouth docks with 7,100 people. The estate has a largely long established white community though with a small, but growing, population from Eastern Europe. Lawrence Weston Big Local emerged from a comprehensive community plan developed by the LTO (Ambition Lawrence Weston: ALW) in 2013, which has subsequently become the basis for Lawrence Weston becoming a designated neighbourhood Development Plan area. To date, Local Trust has ‘paid’ £143,616 and Lawrence Weston Big Local has attracted over £700k other monies, in addition to £1.2 million Coastal Community Fund for the ward area.

Example of activities
To date, Lawrence Weston has undertaken a diverse range of activities. These have included taking over the recently closed youth centre as a base for the employment hub. The partnership has also supported environmental improvements to green spaces, the installation of new play areas, the development of a community shop selling locally produced arts and crafts materials and a community café in the local Baptist Church (Café on the Cross). In addition, Big Local has focused on energy efficiency measures to the housing stock in the area and the promotion of green energy initiatives in partnership with Bristol Community Energy. The partnership has also used Big Local monies strategically to lever in substantial additional funding through the Coastal Communities Fund: a partnership initiative with two local authorities: Bristol and South Gloucester.

Making a difference
With ALW, the Big Local has plans to transform the community. These include attracting investment from a supermarket chain for a new shopping outlet, working to develop currently derelict land into both housing for sale and community owned homes. Another site will also accommodate an integrated community centre, housing Big Local, local voluntary groups, health and wellbeing services and the local library. The partnership has also invested in substantial green energy initiative, such as a solar farm and wind turbines on brown field sites around the M5 corridor between the estate and Avonmouth which will bring in a sustainable return of an estimated £25,000 per year, with an upfront payment of £150k, for community benefit.

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Northfleet Big Local
Northfleet is located just south of Gravesend in North Kent and the Big Local covers four estates in the town with a population of 2,400 people. Historically these were predominantly white communities though they have become increasingly diverse and now includes migrants from Eastern Europe as well as African, Caribbean and South East Asian groups. The Big Local plan was submitted in August 2013 and identified free community spaces, access to employment, children and young people and environmental improvements as key priorities. The LTO is the Council for Voluntary Service North West Kent. To date, Local Trust has ‘paid’ £320,344 to Northfleet Big Local.

Examples of activities
Northfleet Big Local has supported a diverse range of projects and works closely with UnLtd to promote local social enterprise. Initiatives include CAS Training, providing support in access to employment and other advice services, Hive Hope foodbank and the No Walls Garden which works with the long term unemployed and ex-offenders. The partnership has also supported the development of local amenities including a secure children’s play area and working with our local trusted organisation to reopen and utilise Wallis Park Community Centre. Much of the partnerships work in the past two years has focused on building community cohesion across the four estates in the area. Working towards this goal has included work on heritage promotion to increase pride in the community and organising regular cross-community events such as a farmers’ market.

Making a difference
Examples of Northfleet Big Local making a difference include CAS Training working with over 300 people in its first 18 months and supporting over 70 local residents into employment. Previously derelict land has been turned into a play area and No Walls Garden has improved the physical environment around the centre of Northfleet, whilst supporting local residents into, for example, self- employment as landscape gardeners. Many of the substantial challenges for the partnership lie ahead. The development of Ebbsfleet Garden City and the potential Paramount Theme Park around the edges of Northfleet present opportunities for increasing residents’ access to local employment – issues which Northfleet Big Local are already in negotiations about with the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation.

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Radstock and Westfield Big Local
Situated in North Somerset, Big Local covers two wards, Radstock and Westfield which include the out-lying villages of Clandown, Haydon, Writhlington and Tyning. The area, now defined as primarily rural, was formally part of the North Somerset coalfield. The total population is 11,500 though with recent housing developments particularly in Radstock, that population is expanding. The LTO is Westfield Parish Council. To date, Local Trust has ‘paid’ £139,168 to Radstock and Westfield Big Local.

Examples of activities
The Radstock Big Local plan was approved in February 2015. This has five core themes, people, place, mobility, business development and lifelong learning. Over the first two years of operation, Big Local has focused on small grants. These are awarded through high profile Dragon’s Den style community events. To date there have been four Dragon’s Dens awarding over 40 grants of up to £500. These have supported a diverse range of local projects – from Swallow’s (working with adults with a learning disability), though to local drama groups and physical improvements to community facilities – such as the local history museum (to develop its tourist offer) and the Victoria Hall Arts Centre. Big Local is in the process of developing the Big Fund which will award larger grants for events and building improvements.

Making a difference
Radstock Big Local has two part-time development workers. Much of their work has been to develop the capacity of local groups not only to bid for funding but also look at longer term sustainability. Two examples of positive outcomes are supporting Westfield Allotment Group (WAGs) to develop growing spaces specifically for children and young people and supporting Swallow’s to develop a social enterprise with people with a learning disability. There are also longer term plans to develop the local economy through town centre improvements and the development of an integrated community hub and health and wellbeing centre.

1 To avoid confusion with Westfield Big Local (Sheffield), Radstock and Westfield is referred to as Radstock throughout the rest of this report

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Ramsey Million Big Local
Ramsey Million covers the small market town of Ramsey and five nearby villages in Cambridgeshire. This is a rural area, with a population of 8,400, in the fenland countryside approximately 15 miles from Peterborough and Huntingdon. Ramsey Parish is a recognised area of deprivation with poor transport links, limited employment opportunities and low aspirations – particularly amongst young people. Ramsey is on the cusp of changing from a market town to a dormitory town where some people work, shop and entertain themselves elsewhere only returning home at night.

Ramsey Million aims to involve young people in indoor and outdoor social spaces; enable families and children to access affordable activities and events; improve community transport links; provide training and employment opportunities; make the most of the town’s heritage and ensure opportunities for people to support one another.

Its main LTO is a small community organisation, Ramsey Neighbourhood Trust. To date, Local Trust has ‘paid’ £315,986 to Ramsey Million Big Local.

Examples of activities
Ramsey million has created and supported regular children’s activities across a wide age range – from 0-18 years. It is also supporting the forthcoming skatepark, which has been on the cards for at least ten years.

A lot of work has been committed to local heritage projects, both to build community pride in Ramsey and to attract outsiders who spend their money in local shops and cafes. This has involved helping local heritage groups to work together more effectively and contracting a dedicated worker to open up new visitor opportunities. This has led to a Ramsey brand and new website www.discoverramsey.co.uk to attract visitors from further afield.

Making a difference
Ramsey Million has facilitated communication between organisations in the area and become a ‘go to’ organisation for the council with whom it now has some influence, as well as for local community groups. The youth activities are run with young people as volunteers, apprentices and as paid workers, and are very different in nature form the youth work delivered in Ramsey in the past. The town is reported to be busier and more vibrant and there appears to be a reduction in anti-social behaviour. Ramsey Neighbourhood Trust was a small organisation run by volunteers but has, as a result of Ramsey Million, created ten jobs for local people and built its capacity as a potential legacy body to continue the Big local ethos.

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Three Parishes Big Local
The Three Parishes Big Local is located in North Shropshire on the edge of the Welsh border. Originally a coal mining area, the Three Parishes has a population of 8,000 in the villages of St. Martin’s, Weston Rhyn and the larger town of Gabowen. Each community lies about two miles apart and the area is dissected by a major commuter route – the A5.

The LTO is Oswestry Community Action, a locally based charity which aims to foster residents’ skills and aspirations to respond to community needs. To date, Local Trust has ‘paid’ £210,702 to Three Parishes Big Local.

Examples of activities
The original Three Parishes Big Local plan was published in September 2014 and refreshed in early 2016. Amongst its key aims are environmental improvements, enhancing community buildings, developing local enterprise and improving skills, qualifications, health and wellbeing locally. Two key issues identified were access to affordable credit and, in deep rural communities, transport. Much of the early work of the Three Parishes Big Local focused on small grants, with developmental support for local community groups to access funds and build their capacity to attract external monies. Examples include supporting a now well attended local drop-in coffee morning and enabling young people to participate in activities beyond the immediate community. Big Local also funds summer schemes and out of school activities. Building on this experience the Big Local partnership has moved on to making larger grants, for example enabling Community First Responders (volunteer rural ambulance service) to purchase and equip a new ambulance, and supporting a consortium of local groups to develop the local library (under threat of closure) into a community resource.

Making a difference
Over 2015-16, working with FAIRshare, the Three Parishes Big Local piloted a rural Credit Union in the three local settlements. This has become the partnership’s largest single investment in an effort to address financial inclusion. Though initially slow to start, this initiative has been re-shaped in discussions between the partnership and FAIRshare to include, as well as three local credit union collection points, outreach promoting financial literacy, developing more on-line access to credit union savings and loans, and a successful savings club in the local school.

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Westfield Big Local
Westfield is a ‘township’ with a population of 3,400 on the south east edge of Sheffield, on the border with Rotherham and overlooking Derbyshire. The estate was built in the 1970s to house the increasing population of Sheffield.

Westfield Big Local feel that the area has been neglected and that the community spirit evident when the estate was built has disappeared. It has few community facilities and is focusing on seven priority action areas: community; crime and antisocial behaviour; spaces for socialising; health and wellbeing; environment and green space; education and employment; and activities for all the community, young and old.

Westfield Big Local works in partnership with the University of Sheffield who have helped to map a range of assets in the area and held an International Planning Conference at the local school. The LTO is Beighton Village Development Trust. To date, Local Trust has ‘paid’ £96,599 to Westfield Big Local.

Examples of activities
Westfield has concentrated on reinvigorating community spirit through its annual gala and social trips, and on arranging a management transfer of the previously council managed community centre. It is now creating a community café and offering a range of community activities through which people can socialise, such as a craft group and a gardening group. Big local runs holiday activities for children and is looking at the potential for more play / park space on the estate.

Making a difference
The community centre is the only community space on the estate and is providing a facility for all ages. It has become a drop-in point for people who were previously isolated, and younger and older people are working together. There is a sense that more people are talking to each other, there is greater community engagement and there is a more community spirit.

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Whitley Bay Big Local
Whitley Bay is a seaside town in North Tyneside. The Big Local area has 3,200 residents. Having gone through a period of declining fortunes and rising unemployment, there is now a regeneration strategy which includes a rejuvenated seafront and enthusiasm to re-invigorate the town. It wants to see relationships between people and organisations in the town grow and deepen and an increasing sense of community emerge. The Whitley Bay Big Local (WBBL) themes centre on engagement and coordination; environment; people; wellbeing; partnerships and communication.

The WBBL Plan 2016-2019 exhorts residents to look after each other, look after themselves, and look after Whitley Bay. Its LTO is New Prospects, a charity which provides support to people with learning disabilities. To date, Local Trust has ‘paid’ £220,925 to WBBL.

Examples of activities
WBBL has taken both a grassroots and a strategic approach. It has opened up engagement and volunteering opportunities to individuals at its community shop and through its Small Sparks grants to individuals and small community groups, which have led to over forty projects. There are lots of small scale activities, as well as contributions to Whitley Bay as a whole. For example through improving the town’s appearance with plants and flowers; clean ups; the Big Local appointment of a town caretaker and support to the revival of the town's annual Carnival. Big Local has taken a more strategic approach through the establishment of a credit union in the town. It has also supported local youth organisations created a regular newsletter and webpage, worked with UnLtd and developed its own masterplan for Whitley Bay. The partnership has also been active in the opening up of communication between Big Local and key agencies about this masterplan, particularly the local Council, police, Chamber of Trade and local transport agencies. It has also levered in over £100,000 of match funding.

Making a difference
WBBL is a formal consultee on North Tyneside Council planning issues and has helped give people a voice in strategic planning for the town, e.g. around the seafront regeneration and economic development, and changed the relationship between the community and the council for the better. It has brought people together and linked residents into initiatives they were previously unaware of. It sees itself as a catalyst for turning round the perceptions of Whitley Bay and its fortunes in the future. WBBL has recently decided to create its own charity structure and has become a charitable incorporated organisation (CIO).

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