One in five English market towns are now taking the first steps to
regenerate and improve life for rural communities under a
Countryside Agency's market towns 'health checks' to understand and
tackle the problems and challenges they face now and in the future,
according to Countryside Agency deputy chair Pam Warhurst - but more
towns could benefit from taking their own temperature.
Speaking on Friday's Action for Market Towns convention in Ely,
Pam Warhurst said:
'Our scheme gets market towns measuring their 'health'* and ability
to provide essential services for the surrounding countryside. This
means an action plan can then be put together to address a town's
problems. Since the scheme started in May last year 190 towns have
signed up to do health checks and 120 of these have completed it and
created their action plan.
'Here in Ely a health check has highlighted that there isn't enough
affordable housing and temporary accommodation, so they're action
plan will aim to tackle these problems. Having done a health check
Thorne in Yorkshire, a deprived former colliery town, has decided to
focus on young people as its priority, so has planned new meeting
places and a skatepark to replace redundant and out dated facilities.
'While we're really pleased that a fifth of towns have already got
involved and are feeling the advantages, there are still many other
market towns that would benefit who we'd like to see doing the health
check. Any town interested in doing a health check can find all the
information they need about how to do it on our website -
Some of the main issues thrown up so far by the health checks are:
- concerns about employment levels and the wish to maintain a healthy
local economy through business diversification, more business space
and boosted tourism;
- there's a desire to engage young people and offer them more
- better recreation facilities are badly needed;
- towns want to enhance their centres, retail areas, main approaches
and derelict areas;
- and, for people living in rural communities around towns, adequate
transport facilities really determine their quality of life.
The Countryside Agency's information on how to do a health check and
create an action plan are part of the market towns toolkit, which
also contains advice about community participation, funding for
projects, training, transport and business support. Information about
the toolkit is available on the Countryside Agency's website, along
with details of your regional Countryside Agency office who can
provide information about how the market towns initiative operates in
your area. From October the website will carry new advice based on
information from towns who have completed health checks.
*A 'healthy' market town needs a whole range of factors: economic,
like attracting and retaining investment and a skilled workforce;
environmental - conserving and creating high-quality landscapes and
historic buildings; and social, such as bolstering civic pride and
The Countryside Agency and the regional development agencies are half
way through a three year programme in which they have£37m to spend
on revitalising England's market towns.
The Countryside Agency Vital Villages project provides funding and
advice for rural communities to improve their services - information
The Countryside Agency supports Action for Market Towns, a national
network for smaller towns and all those interested in their future.
For further information phone AMT on 01284 756 567
The Countryside Agency is responsible for advising government and
taking action on issues affecting the social, economic and
environmental well being of the English countryside.