Roseland: a case study of running your steering group
The area of the Roseland is comprised of five rural parishes (Gerrans, Ruan Lanihorne, St Just in Roseland and Veryan Parish Councils and Philleigh Parish Meeting) set within the AONB. The population is approximately 3,200 and varies between the parishes, the smallest being about 150 and the biggest just over 1,000.
The Roseland has an aging population. Agriculture and tourism are the main business areas.
Structuring your steering group
Cornwall Councillor Julian German initially promoted the idea of the five parishes coming together to produce a neighbourhood plan. This made sense because the smaller parishes would not have the resources to produce a plan on their own. Accordingly, the Neighbourhood Development Plan steering group was set up.
The steering group has ten members, the key members being the Chairman, Vice Chair, and Secretary who are elected by the group. The majority of work is undertaken by these three members with support from other group members and some local people. The structure is on this chart on the group's website.
The members are a mixture of parish councillors and the public. They operate under a “terms of reference” agreed by all five parish councils.
Operating your steering group
1. Terms of Reference
Jon Smith, Chairman, has some clear advice for other groups: “I
would advise those thinking of producing an NDP to have robust terms of
reference (TOR). It needs to be clear on who will do what and what
people’s responsibilities will be.” You can see Roseland’s TOR online.
What does the TOR cover?
- Tasks and activities
- Group membership
- Meeting arrangements
- Changes to the TOR
- Dissolution of the group
The TOR doesn’t need to be long or complex. Roseland’s is quite short – just over two sides – plus an extra sheet to record all the members’ signatures.
On reflection, Jon feels that in addition any TOR should cover how you appoint a member, and how you dismiss them should that prove necessary.
2. Objectives and methodology
The objectives and methodology of the group should be also clear. Some things to think about include:
- Are prospective members clear about the way the group will work (for example, how it will represent the whole community and not just the views of group members)?
- Are people being asked to join a group that has a largely strategic, advisory role or are they being asked to do the work?
Being clear about the group’s purpose and members’ roles should help attract the right sort of people who are able to deliver the tasks required.
3. Knowledge required
Another tip from Jon is to try to ensure that all members have had sufficient training before work commences, otherwise time will be wasted. Members who are up to speed and feel confident in their neighbourhood planning knowledge will be able to operate more effectively.
Jon comments that “We have had great support from Cornwall Council, Cornwall AONB, Planning Aid England, the Parish Councils and anyone else we have approached. In addition the workshops run by Planning Aid England which some of us attended were very useful in explaining the process.”
What progress has the group made so far?
The key reason to produce an NDP was to ensure the community gets the development it wants and needs, where it wants it. Local people are very supportive of the AONB and passionate about the Roseland.
The plan is community led and will reflect the wants and desires of the community. One way the steering group has been seeking community views is through a questionnaire (pdf) and accompanying letter. The questionnaire uses headings such as:
- Quality of life
- Renewable energy
- Historic and built environment
- Affordable housing
This has provided the group with material for its next task. As Jon explains “Currently we are analysing the results from 800 plus questionnaires received, which will lead us to the specific content. The response rate to the questionnaire was 30% which is really encouraging.”
Already, the plan has raised awareness of planning issues and the need to be prepared to get involved to achieve the community/environment that people want. To support this, the website has a list of the sort of activities people can get involved in.
- Have robust terms of reference
- Be clear about your objectives and methodology
- Ensure members have training on neighbourhood planning before they get started
- Seek support and advice where needed
- Let everyone know what’s happening! Roseland is using their website to help with this: see their action list, project plan and diagram showing what stage the plan is at.
These case studies are produced by Planning Aid England as part of the Supporting Communities in Neighbourhood Planning programme, funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government and delivered by a consortium led by Locality.