Many people are surprised to learn that nearly 40 percent of Mendip residents live in a rural setting. With this in mind, I wanted to talk to you about parish councils and the important role they play serving their local – and rural – communities.
Most people are aware that parish councils are consulted during the planning application process, but their roles are much broader than this. They oversee wide-ranging, important services, from managing allotments and bus shelters, to looking after cemeteries and community areas such as parks, playing fields and village halls. They even arrange for our characteristic ‘fingerpost’ signs to be lovingly restored.
On top of their statutory duties, parish councils are making great strides to address the climate and ecological emergency by planting trees and looking at ways to support pollinators and wildlife, to name a few examples.
In my experience, the parishes always have so much local knowledge and are important partners in helping Mendip deliver services to the communities we are here serve.
One of the aims of this administration was to strengthen our relationships with parishes – to engage with and support them – to facilitate a dialogue in which we really listen to their needs.
Our Parish Forum, chaired by a parish council chairman, meets regularly and we have managed to meet remotely. The forums include a question & answer session with me, briefings and training, and we make sure we cover relevant and current topics.
In November we are planning a dedicated forum to showcase the many grants and loans that are available to residents. We’ll consolidate what we know, with our partners at SPARK, and share the information with our communities. You can find out more about SPARK, an organisation that provides information, advice and training to the voluntary and community sector in Somerset, here: www.sparksomerset.org.uk.
Rural residents have distinctly different needs to those who live in the larger settlements in Mendip. For instance, it can be harder for them to access important services such as GP surgeries, especially when so many bus services have been cut in recent years. It is for this reason that we are so keen to consult with parish councils on topics such as the Mendip Access & Parking Strategy.
Another area where we are working closely with parishes is through our active travel plans to improve existing pathways for cycling and walking, and create new ones.
Written by Cllr Ros Wyke, Leader of Mendip District Council
Please get in touch either on my Facebook page @Ros.Wyke or you can send me an email: [email protected].