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A COMMUNITY-LED PLAN
FOR THE STRETTONS
2021 – 2036

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This Executive Summary is being delivered to all households in the Strettons. It captures the main findings and recommendations of the Community-Led Plan for the Strettons 2021 to 2036.

The full Plan can be found at www.strettonsclp.org.uk. and www.churchstretton-tc.gov.uk
Printed copies are also available at the Church Stretton Library in Church Street, at the Town Council Office in the High Street and at the Mayfair Community Centre in Easthope Road. Copies have also been sent to local Parish Councils, so may be available near where you live.

This section deals with the main findings and recommendations in the Strettons
Community-Led Plan (CLP). Full details are to be found in the body of the text. The communities covered by this Plan include the town of Church Stretton, Little Stretton and All Stretton villages and the hamlets of Minton and Hamperley.
 
In 2019 the Church Stretton Town Council decided to initiate work on a Community-Led Plan. The purpose of the Plan is to help people to have a better understanding of the aspirations and concerns of the community and how it can go forward together to improve life in the Strettons. It is designed for the Town Council, Shropshire Council and all other public, private and voluntary bodies to use, to inform their decisions up to 2036.
A call went out for volunteers from the Strettons and as a result a Steering Group was put in place. This was followed by a Household Survey sent to residents, which asked what they would like to see conserved, what should be improved and what extra things might be provided, leading to an outline agenda for the formation of the Community-Led Plan.
In its extensive consultations with groups and individuals the Steering Group was conscious not only of the many challenges facing the community, but also of the opportunities to enhance the wellbeing of residents. A flourishing community is not an island but is embedded in a healthy society and a thriving natural world.

Household Survey – Main findings

The Steering Group issued a Household Survey in January 2020 (see Appendix A on the website) and was encouraged by the response: 878 valid surveys were completed out of 2440 households, representing 36% of households. The biggest response to the question of priorities, concerned Countryside and Nature, the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, woodland, surrounding hills and wildlife. Residents feel strongly that it is important to protect the hills on both sides of the Stretton Valley, the woodlands, nature reserves and the green countryside separating Little Stretton and All Stretton villages from Church Stretton. Issues surrounding local shops and business, community facilities such as the Leisure Centre, Swimming Pool and Library, as well as health and social care also scored highly across all age groups. What many people want to see improved is the town layout including wider pavements, better traffic flow and improvements to the High Street and Square.

Distinctive features of The Strettons Community

In the preparation of this Plan the following important issues relating to The Strettons’ Community were considered:

  • The Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
    Church Stretton is the only market town in Shropshire which is located entirely within the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Therefore, the regulations of the National Planning Policy Framework govern development in the town. The primary purpose of the AONB is to conserve and enhance natural beauty whist taking account of the social and economic needs of local communities and rural industries, such as agriculture and forestry.

  • Demographics
    The Strettons have an elderly population, to a much greater degree than elsewhere in Shropshire. There are fewer children of school age and below the average of people of working age, compared to the rest of the county. The Strettons have the highest proportion of over 65s in Shropshire (41.2%). This age profile makes greater demands on health and other associated services, particularly as people move into extreme old age.

  • A Popular Retirement Area
    The Strettons is a popular retirement area, notably attracting people from the West Midlands conurbation and London and the south of England. Amongst the downsides of this inward migration, is that housing is amongst the most expensive in the county, making it difficult for working people on low incomes and young people leaving home, to find reasonably priced housing.
    However, there are benefits. A high proportion volunteer to help run the many charitable or voluntary organisations and clubs found in the Strettons. Many are also relatively well-off, so their pensions and savings make a significant contribution to sustaining shops and services.

  • Mayfair Community Centre
    The Strettons benefit from the independent Mayfair Community Centre and its adjacent Health & Wellbeing Centre in the heart of Church Stretton. It provides a wide range of health and social services and is recognised nationally as a leading Healthy Living Centre. It is strongly supported by residents and can be a launch-pad for further improvements in health and social services.

Recommendations

1 Countryside and Nature
The people of the Strettons are very much involved in environmental issues and the membership of special interest groups is high. There is a strong wish to conserve and preserve the surrounding countryside.
However, any changes that can be made to improve the countryside and living in the Strettons need to take account of the Climate Emergency; this is no longer a theoretical and distant threat but is with us now. It is, therefore, important to take what action is possible locally. Shropshire Council and Church Stretton Town Council have declared a climate emergency and are preparing action plans to reduce carbon emissions and to prepare for the changes which the community will face.
Action

  • Create an Environment Forum, tasked to develop an action plan for the Strettons.

  • Promote volunteering to protect and enhance the natural world, increase biodiversity, and meet the demands of future legislation.

  • Adopt the Climate Action Plan (‘Next Steps’) produced by South Shropshire Climate Action for the Ludlow constituency, as a guide to policy and action.

  • In addition to completing and following through its own action plan, Church Stretton Town Council should support, encourage and publicise the work of environmental groups, through its website and provide a dedicated notice board.


2 Local Shops and Businesses
Church Stretton has a mix of businesses with many independent shops attracting customers from a wide area. The majority of the businesses are small and local. They are strongly supported by residents and boosted by tourists throughout the year.
Recruitment can be an issue particularly for weekend and holiday working. The cost of housing is also an issue especially for attracting staff in the care home sector.
The Covid-19 pandemic created problems for some businesses, but it also brought about a spirit of innovation and cooperation and planning for future eventualities.
Action

  • Address Affordable Housing Needs (see paragraph 6, Housing).

  • Encourage businesses to improve by enhancing marketing and publicity.

  • Make communication more comprehensive, encompassing all outlets and social media.

3 Community Facilities and Services
The Strettons form a thriving community with good rail and road links, a range of shops, Schools, Medical Practice, Pharmacies, an Optician and Dental Practices, Library, Leisure Centre and Swimming Pool, Pubs, B&Bs a Post Office and the award- winning Mayfair Community Centre with its Health and Wellbeing Centre. These amenities taken together along with a wealth of clubs, societies and interest groups, provide a strong base for future development. There is a sports field where both men and women of all ages, can participate in the outdoor sports of football, cricket and rugby. One area has been set up for the new addition of the playing of petanque. The Strettons can be proud of its 100- year- old cricket club. The relatively new clubhouse is a welcome facility for all who enjoy sports activity on this field of play.

The main Community Services are the Library and Visitor Information Centre, the Silvester Horne Institute, one of the main venues for public meetings, shows and indoor events, a large Recreation Ground (Rec) with a selection of amenities such as Tennis, Bowls and Croquet, a Leisure Centre and Swimming Pool as well as playing fields, and two local Nature Reserves – Rectory Wood and Field, and Coppice Leasowes.


Action

  • Put facilities on a sustainable financial footing with robust business plans.

  • Promote the use of facilities and improve footfall through better marketing and publicity.

  • Encourage groups to link with others through the establishment of forums and digital networks.

  • Nurture and extend volunteering in a wider area.

  • Make links to Shropshire Council’s ‘Community Hub’ agenda.


4 Health and Social Care
Given the well-documented pressures on the resources of the National Health Service and social care sectors, which have been accentuated by the Covid-19 pandemic, it is believed that the Strettons have the potential to help shape their own future. A tradition of support and caring for each other is embedded in the community especially around activities at Mayfair and the Health & Wellbeing Centre and this has gained strength during the pandemic. There is the potential to build on this tradition to foster healthier lifestyles and establish the Strettons as a beacon of excellence.

Action

  • Establish a Health & Welfare Forum, to bring together all interested parties, to construct a shared vision and develop patterns of cooperation.

  • Promote and develop a preventative model of health and wellbeing, creating a Healthy Living agenda, including programmes for improving fitness and encouraging healthy eating.

  • Seek more volunteers to support the work programmes.

  • Seek cooperative links across and between all organisations concerned with Health and Social Care, both locally and further afield.

  • Promote Telehealth to improve services to those living in remote parts of the Parish or who find it difficult to travel to the Medical Practice.

  • Develop the potential for academic research projects and other professional links and attracting funds and resources for future innovation.


5 Young People
Although the Strettons have a preponderance of older people, the young, including the 16% under the age of 18 should not be neglected. The Youth Survey (see Appendix G) indicated that the things youngsters appreciate about the area, are the beautiful countryside, peace and quiet and that everything was in walking distance; as well as the park and recreational spaces.
A Skatepark has recently been established and plans for a Youth Club are being finalised. St Laurence’ Primary School pupils have enthusiastically contributed to the CLP, producing a folder of work and evidence of how they see the future, along with the need to ‘preserve & enhance’.

 

  • Revive a Youth Council, with the cooperation of schools and youth groups, to provide young people with a voice in the community.

  • Encourage forums and organisations (where appropriate) to involve and achieve representation from young people, as they are the future.

  • Encourage organisations operating community facilities to seek the views of young people on the level and standard of provision.


6 Housing
The popularity of the Strettons as a retirement area has led to relatively expensive housing and this in turn, makes it difficult for people who are on low wages to find housing they can afford. There is a steady demand for market housing and for affordable homes, but neither are easy to provide in quantity because of the requirement, supported by residents, to control and restrict development in the Shropshire Hills AONB, and in particular to limit the further expansion of Church Stretton into the surrounding open countryside.  There is limited scope to build affordable homes within the town development boundary because of the lack of suitable sites, so development is likely to take place on Rural Exception Sites abutting the development boundary.
Action

  • Establish a review by Church Stretton Town Council and Shropshire Council to consider all aspects of the need for and provision of affordable homes. The review should consider the need and opportunities for provision of affordable homes not just in Church Stretton but throughout the Church Stretton Place Plan area and the wider area of the Shropshire Hills AONB.

  • Insist that all housing should be based on need rather than demand.

  • Because of the Strettons’ setting within the AONB, any new development should be sustainable, taking account of the demands of the climate emergency, and of a high- quality design, using local building materials wherever practicable.


7 Transport
It is recognised that, for rural residents living in outlying villages and hamlets, transport by car is often the only option. The disadvantage that the lack of joined up public transport imposes on young people and on the elderly, particularly at weekends and in the evenings should be recognised. Social isolation is a real issue.
In their responses to the Survey, and in ensuing consultations, residents were clear about the need to retain, as a minimum, existing bus and train services, as well as community transport, like Mayfair’s Ring & Ride. But there was also a clear desire to go further, to improve links, to add services that are missing, and above all to integrate through better timetabling and cooperation. In addition, and not least for health reasons, better public transport needs to go hand in hand with the promotion of walking and safe cycling tracks.
Action

  • Establish a Transport Group or Forum to promote and campaign for an integrated system of public transport, with an emphasis on the needs of rural communities.

  • Seek improvements in timetabling.

  • Enhance the attractiveness of the town centre, to improve access and safety (especially for the elderly and people with disabilities) and for the promotion of retail and recreation. The traffic flow should be managed by introducing a one-way system.

  • Re-examine the provision of parking, for residents, workers and visitors, and find new solutions to existing problems. In particular, the inflow of visitor traffic in peak holiday periods needs to be organised more efficiently, possibly with a policy of dispersal using shuttle buses.

  • Begin work on reducing emissions and pollution by promoting, for example, electric or hydrogen-powered buses, by car sharing and by campaigning for an increase in the number of electric vehicle charging points.

  • Make links with the proposed Town Improvement Group (paragraph 8) on appropriate transport issues.


8 Town Centre

In the Household Survey, people were clear about two things: they wish to see the appearance and character of the town conserved, and they wish to see the town layout improved. The question is how to preserve and even enhance both the economic sustainability of the town and the character and appearance of the centre.


Action

  • Put in place a Town Centre Improvement Working Group to consult and develop plans along the lines recommended in the full report.

  • Ask the Working Group to consider, in particular, the following issues:

  • Achieving a better balance between pedestrians and vehicles.

  • Creating a socially usable and attractive space in the Square.

  • Improve parking, disabled access to premises and signage.

  • Improve shop front design standards and common road and pavement surface treatment based on the Town Council’s Design Guides.


9 Community Spirit including the Arts
Out of the Steering Group discussions on the effect of the pandemic on the health and wellbeing of residents, and on the need to re-build for future years, a working group for Arts and Culture was formed, which soon mutated into an Arts Forum. The Strettons are well known for performing arts from Pantomime to Friday Night at the Horne, the Stretton Players and the More Singers, to the Stretton Choral Society.  The Arts Forum supports all the creative arts (see Appendix B on the website)

Action

  • Find ways to expand the Arts Forum, building cooperative ways of working across sectors.

  • Promote the Strettons as a centre for Arts and Culture. It has already been designated as a Culture Hub.

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Looking down on the Strettons from the Long Mynd

Front cover – Church Stretton market day.                                         H Claytonsmith