Lively discussion followed a presentation comprising an update on Plan progress, a review of charts from the questionnaire, and the proposed Vision for the Plan.
Local economy and business
Participants generally agreed on the need for economic development in the area and provision for small business development. They also ventured into discussing the topic of out-commuting and digital commuting. The Newcastle planners seem to be concerned about out-commuting from this area, but what do they know about the (invisible) digital commuting that goes on? The digital economy is developing and changing fast, and the days are gone when it can be assumed that homes will be exclusively occupied by people who work in the local economy. The planners’ reluctance to support business and economic development in the rural area, and their focus on housing, was also mentioned.
People felt that the Neighbourhood Area would benefit from having a business hub with hotdesking facilities for people running small businesses and start-ups. The benefits would range from meeting the needs of self-employed people who would like to work away from home for at least for part of the time, to working in an environment where there are possibilities for exchange of ideas and business networking. Possibilities for establishing a hub or hubs in the area include barn conversions or installing superfast broadband in the smaller village halls, where an attractive working environment could be created during the daytime. Some people would appreciate having access to a place where they could hire a room to meet with clients.
If the local economy could be developed by providing facilities for small businesses and start-ups, then people who have grown up here might feel that there is something to stay for after all, rather than moving away, and younger people might be attracted to come and live here. But they would need housing within their price range.
A very interesting suggestion was that we need to look at subdividing larger houses into smaller units. Workers’ cottages and council houses were built in the past to house people who worked locally, but with the changing rural economy, the right to buy and loss of rural jobs, that housing has been sold off. Little cottages have been joined together to make larger houses, or demolished to make way for large replacements. But now people voice a need for smaller dwellings for longer-term residents who want to downsize. And to enable younger people to live here and create a place for themselves in the local economy we need accommodation that will provide those lower rungs on the housing ladder.
Altogether, the Vision looks good, and this evening, as so often happens when people get together to talk around an idea or a problem, some ideas crystallised a little more and some new ideas came to the fore.