Group starts trust talks

MOVES are underway to explore the potential for a community trust in Ponteland.

But a councillor has urged those involved to make sure that residents are fully consulted before a decision is made about whether or not to proceed.

Such an independent body, also known as a development trust, has no set model but it does have common characteristics of being concerned with the regeneration of an area, aiming for long-term sustainability and being accountable for their actions.

Ponteland Mayor Peter Cowey has set up a steering group to look into the matter. It includes representatives from local organisations and the business community.

An initial meeting has been held with Tony Kirsop, who has expertise in this area, and more are planned to discuss the structure of community trusts and the ways in which they can operate.

At a meeting of the town council, Coun Cowey said that there is little he can say about this at the moment because the group needs further details.

But he added: “I decided to get involved so I could let you know what is happening with this throughout the process, rather than us finding out about it at a late stage.”

Coun Sue Johnson asked if there would be some consultation with the public before any proposals come forward.

She said: “There are many organisations already helping the community in our village, so we need to find out if residents actually want a community trust.”

The dilemma of whether or not such a body should accept donations from developments that the majority of people in Ponteland are against, if they are given planning permission, was also raised.

Community trusts can use the funding they bring in to manage public open space, carry out local improvement schemes and restore buildings, develop and run sports and recreation facilities, manage community centres and promote local heritage among other activities.

The Development Trusts Association says: “These trusts are concerned with the long-term regeneration of an area in its widest sense, with its economy, its environment, its facilities and the services and the ‘spirit’ of its communities.

“They aim to create assets in the community and make a profit, but not for private gain, and any profit made is re-invested in the community.

“They are community-based and accountable – in their work, their style and the composition of their boards of management.”

Following a request from members of the authority, Coun Cowey will ask Mr Kirsop to give a presentation to councillors about the community trust process.