Since the Localism Bill was announced, I have been talking to local groups about the opportunities this legislation offers to make Thanet a better place to live and work. We have much to celebrate, but like all areas, we have our problems. Derelict buildings and land, street clutter, out-of-town developments which have affected our high streets, and prized community assets which have slipped into disrepair. Having already met with some of the Cliftonville residents, this week I joined Ramsgate residents to discuss how we can make a difference to our streets, parks, buildings and community assets and establish a clear vision of how our towns should be regenerated. And in the coming weeks I look forward to joining Broadstairs and Sandwich groups to discuss their vision for their town.
The Localism Bill offers local people new opportunities through community rights. Groups can run existing amenities if they are under threat – save a closing pub, initiate a timetable for residents to staff a museum, or manage a public park that has been neglected. Groups also have the right to build or renovate, take ownership of public derelict land, and bid for public services contracts.
Neighbourhood Plans are at the heart of these news powers and allow a community to determine the future of their neighbourhood. You the resident and your neighbours can decide what sort of housing your area requires; what style and design would be in keeping with other properties? What amenities are lacking – do you need more facilities for young people to enjoy? Are your transport needs catered to or would you benefit from more cycle paths and parking spaces? How can we make our neighbourhoods more attractive – perhaps less street clutter? All of these things can be part of a neighbourhood plan that the Local Council and developers have to respect and adhere to.
Central to driving forward Thanet’s regeneration will be ensuring residents – young and old – work together on a common vision. Now is a great time to get involved with your local residents association; join your local civic society; or form your own street group to help shape the future development and character of Thanet.