Jeffrey Phillips from Ashbourne Partnership stood up towards the end of the Housing Consultation meeting in the Town Hall. As he looked over the 200 or so people in the Ball Room he indicated his hope that the expression of concern about Ashbourne issues could be carried forward into something more long-term – in his words “a Neighbourhood Team”. He followed up his views in this week’s Ashbourne News Telegraph with a letter.
I’ve long hoped we would have a “Town Team” using the terminology of Mary Portas – I’m not sure if there is any difference between what Jeffrey wants but a cursory look at other Neighbourhood Teams on the internet suggests they broadly have the same objectives – to make Ashbourne a great place to be. It has enormous scope but nobody surely would object to that aspiration.
People will argue that it already is a great place to be and they don’t want it changing – that view was expressed at the Council meeting. In my view the status quo is a very dangerous objective: as the world around us changes we need continually to place a gentle hand on the tiller to adapt and exploit the opportunities. Ashbourne has changed enormously over the years – you just have to look at what remains of Ashbourne Hall and imagine what it once was or consider the impact of the airfield or the cattle market in their prime. What hasn’t changed are the values and the culture of the Town.
In a divided Town (with the Town Council, the Ashbourne Partnership, the traders, the Church, the sports clubs, local social clubs, charities and the youth movements all pursuing their own valuable agendas) we run the risk that important issues fall through the gaps between them – not through fault but by oversight. In a divided Town each of those groups carries quite large burdens alone whereas together the workload can be spread more evenly. Without some uniting force the decision-making on the big issues gets delayed or ignored due to a lack of mandate or authority and as a result the decisions can be made on our behalf at District or County level. And finally, all those people in the Town who have no affiliation with any organisation have no place to give their time and energy in support.
I fully support Jeffrey Phillips in his hopes for the future and really wish the idea of a Town, Neighbourhood or Ashbourne Team was on the agenda. It just takes one small step for the Town Council or the Ashbourne Partnership to book a hall and invite all the interested parties to an open meeting with the express objective of launching the project and bringing the activities they support in the town to it without fear of losing control or ownership:
The Park redevelopment
The Housing Consultation
Local Planning Issues – the flood wall, Sainsburys redevelopment, the Bus Station, the Library, planning permissions on Waterside
The state of the Ashbourne High Street
Facilities for Young People
Parking and Traffic