The way in which council services are provided in Devon look set to change and residents across the county have never had a better opportunity to influence this change to meet the needs of their local community. The Boundary Committee has been asked by the Government to see if a new system of local government could replace current system of county and district, city and borough councils. At the heart of the proposal is a desire to devolve power and resources to local communities in a new style of democracy. It is recognised that the Blackdown Hills is more than simply a pleasant area of outstanding beauty, but a collection of vibrant and purposeful village communities with much in common. This was the basis of a meeting of interested parties who believe that there is real benefit to seeing the Hills becoming a Rural Community Board. Members of Parish Councils from Hemyock, Sheldon, Upottery, Clayhidon and Dunkeswell met with others to debate the issues.
Heather Stallard who chairs Hemyock Parish Council said that there seemed to be a groundswell of opinion against the proposals by Devon County Council for Community Boards based upon “towns with their hinterlands”. This proposal placed Hemyock with a Cullompton Board – a town with which there was little current interaction or common interest and there would be restricted ability to voice issues of importance to our area.
Geoffrey Sworder Chairman of Dunkeswell Parish Council pointed out that the proposal currently split Dunkeswell and Sheldon into two different board areas which would be the worst of all outcomes.
The meeting agreed to lobby the Boundary Commission and Devon County Council, expressing the idea of a Rural Community Board for the Blackdown Hills. As Parish Councils were the only tier of local government that was guaranteed to remain in the new order, following county wide reorganisation, Parish Councils in the Blackdowns had to have a real involvement in the determination of outcomes affecting their future and that of the populace.
A subsequent question, not dealt with at the meeting but raised at a Hemyock Parish Council Meeting – “How would this effect the villages of the Blackdown Hills which are in Somerset (Churchinford, Buckland St Mary etc)?”
A copy of the minutes of the meeting is available from Parish Clerks.