The North Lichfield Initiative

Earlier this year the Committee agreed to invite a speaker from the District Council to address its members on the background of the North Lichfield Initiative. The Committee, it was felt, had little understanding of the Initiative and hence, whether the Society had role to play and if it had, what that role should be.

As a result of the invitation Steve Smith, Head of Tourism and Economic Development Services at the Lichfield District Council gave a short presentation to the Committee prior to the monthly Committee Meeting on 1st November at Cruck House.

Regeneration has, for some years, been considered by governments of differing persuasions as an important area within its overall agenda and policy. To most of us the term "inner city regeneration" usually applies to areas within large cities considered to be suffering from depravation; i.e. poor quality housing, lack of job opportunity leading to high levels of unemployment, poor quality of health [related to poor quality diet, owing to lack of income, owing to unemployment], anti-social behaviour i.e. crime, vandalism, etc. I doubt if many of us would have considered an area within Lichfield as requiring regeneration within the above context.

In 1995 Lichfield District Council established its Regeneration Strategy identifying four areas within the District - Chase Town/Chase Terrace, Chadsmead [Curborough], Fazeley and Armitage with Handsacre. The Strategy to further investigate Chadsmead became the North Lichfield Initiative and was subsequently launched in August 1997. It brought together a Partnership of City, District and County Councils, Lichfield Housing Association, Schools, health providers and Social Services amongst others. By this time the area under consideration had been extended to include parts of Stowe Ward where small but equally important pockets of depravation were found to exist.

The NLI Partnership determined that it its initial objective must be to establish whether the needs of the area were matched by the current provision. To quantify the latter an audit of existing activities was carried out to establish what was going on, who was providing what and significantly, was the quality of provision adequate? The needs of the area required not only input from the 'professionals' but the extremely important and invaluable input of the local community. Community research was carried out and included 500 interviews and the use of Focus Groups - e.g. young people, mums/dads, employers, etc. - to establish the views of specific groups of people. Funding of the Community Research was provided by the Partnership and is proving to be money well spent.

The Partnership had considered from the moment the Initiative was launched that success depended on the full and unhindered involvement of the local community. Having established the salient facts of the area the people are now fully involved in analysing those facts, agreeing and setting down objectives, agreeing strategies, formulating action plans, etc. As a result of local involvement it is the community that has determined its priorities; in no specific order, as health, community, education, employment/training, transport, environment, crime and youth. It is in these areas of concern that small groups, workshops, etc. consisting of locals and the relevant professionals have been set up to produce answers. In July [?] this year the NLI Partnership presented to the local community an action plan for the next three year period that included within the proposed structure the setting up formalised Working Groups and Action Groups. In addition, and no doubt of real significance to the community, the establishment of a Partnership Board of 12 members, 6 of whom will be local people nominated by the community. This Board will have the responsibility of ensuring success of the Northern Lichfield Initiative.

The Vision statement contained within the document "A Strategy for North Lichfield" reads "To make North Lichfield an even better place to live by encouraging a greater sense of community". Might I suggest a great many parts of this country should adopt such a vision.

It is to the credit of the Lichfield District Council that the North Lichfield Initiative was established and has progressed. The Society fully supports the Initiative and congratulates the Council on its foresight. It is clear, however, that success will depend on the willingness of all parties to continue to work together in mutual understanding and respect until the job is finished. Failure will not only be to the detriment of the people of North Lichfield but to the City and its community as a whole.

David Duffy
November 1999