Richard Bacon praises Harleston town plan efforts

South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon has praised the efforts of Harleston community who are working together to produce a plan on how they want their town to develop in the future.

Mr Bacon said he would present the latest work of the Have Your Say steering group to ministers at the Department for Communities and Local Government as a shining example of what can be done when residents take matters into their own hands.

Prompted by Harleston Town Council, a group of local volunteers was formed towards the end of 2009 with the task to find out what people liked about the market town, what could be improved and how it could cope with future growth.

With the support of the Norfolk Rural Community Council, the group co-ordinated a questionnaire last year, which more than 530 people responded to, covering a wide range of subjects such as car parking, business expansion, public transport, street lighting and housing.

The published findings have now been endorsed by the town council and were presented to Mr Bacon last Friday.

He said: 'This is the result of a great deal of hard work and I have to say congratulations. Knowing what people are thinking on the ground is very helpful and a whole range of different issues are covered here.

'This will be very helpful to the local district council, to the county, and indeed everyone in deciding what the town's priorities should be.'

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Ian Carstairs, chairman of the Have Your Say steering group, said the next stage is to form task groups to look at the different subjects individually and then feed their work into a final town plan.

'This is an incredible tool for the town council and the community. It says we expect to be heard when it comes to matters that have an effect on the future of the town. It has already been used as a basis of making representations to the Greater Norwich Development Partnership strategy,' he said.

The main points highlighted by the questionnaire included residents wanting to see an increase in jobs before any more housing is built, the construction of a sixth form centre to keep youngsters in the area and the protection of the town's character.

Sue Kuzmic, chairman of Harleston Town Council, said once the town plan was complete it would be regularly re-visited to ensure it contains residents' latest opinions and comments.

She said: 'If people buy into the fact that their opinions are counted and we are acting on them it will have a real affect and hopefully get more people involved in the process further down the line.'