30 November 2006

The Somerton Town Plan - 1977

Recently I was fortunate to find a copy of the 'Draft Somerton Plan' dated March 1977 and it makes very interesting reading. Its also interesting to note that it was developed in conjunction with a widespread consultation process. Quoting directly from that document, it records the following:

p.42 - Informal Recreation
5.33 From the number of local clubs and societies - Somerton Town News lists over 30 - Somerton seems to have an exceptionally active local community. 50% of households responding to the questionnaire belonged to one or more local societies. On the face of it, it (Somerton) is well provided with meeting places for these groups; there are six rooms available, including the Parish Rooms, and excluding the several pubs which also play host to some clubs. The problem is that it (Somerton) lacks a meeting place of sufficient size to accomodate large numbers of people, for the Parish rooms can comfortably only take up to 100 people, which means that well-attended Parish meetings overload it.

p.67 - Recreation
12.2 In the questionnaire returns the public often commented on the contrast between the speed of residential development and the impasse in the provision of recreational facilities. Requests for more - a community centre and more sports facilities in particular - formed a significant proportion of the observations. At the public meeting many speakers suggested modifying existing and planned facilities to extend the range of facilities available.

p.67 - Standards of Provision
12.4 Line 12 - It was generally agreed that a larger village hall was needed.

p.68 - Conclusions and Recommended Policies
12.6 - Although the Sommerton community could make good use of both indoor sports facilities and a larger public hall, public funds for the provision of recreational facilities are in short supply.

Policy No.20
The planning authority upholds the principle of dual use of community facilities and would support use of the proposed sports pavilion for general community purposes; if agreement could be reached with the Playing Fields Committee on this basis, the Council would support an application for funds under the Village Hall Grants Scheme.

So what this document tells us is that Somerton's need for a larger community venue isn't a need that has been recognised relatively recently but has been apparent for at least 30 years. Its also interesting to note that, 30 years ago, local people were commenting on how quickly private development was taking place and how any community development was still stuck in an "impasse".

The difference between 30 years ago and today is that, today, Somerton has some funds available to undertake a project. So, today, it is more important than ever, that the widest, most inclusive debate is undertaken to ensure that what is finally delivered meets, as far as possible, the needs and aspirations of the community. What is currently being proposed is something that meets the limited vision of the Town Council and that is not 'local democracy' or anything near it.

Till next time.