People’s Assembly Northam 28th November 2019

How Can we Make Vibrant Local Communities?

1. Is our vote worthwhile? (Jon)

Our group was small (2 people), which perhaps reflects the fatigue and distrust of the political system at the moment. There’s been overkill and people are fed up. We have never felt really represented by candidate MPs and have never felt sure that our votes would effect the outcome of an election.

We don’t normally know our political candidates personally and there may a need, in this information rich world, for MPs to be more connected to their constituency and their constituents.

Politicians are seen to change their position – as demonstrated in the Lib Dems abandoning their position re Article 50 – and as such endanger the trust of the public.

Do we need more women MPs? Are they more honest / responsible?

Many of us find ourselves in political echo chambers on social media and among friends. While it is important that TCG is non-party political, connecting people of different political persuasions, is it possible for us to have political conversations?

Eleanor suggested that we could have a regular group to discussing politics – trying to keep people up to date with different perspectives and opinions. Perhaps sharing information from different media across the country, across Europe and the globe.

The First Past the Post system is outdated but can we see PR happening in the UK?

We take optimism from the idea of small parishes and towns working under a system like Flatpack Democracy, linking together to make local authorities redundant.

Can TCG represent people on a county (Devon Common Ground?) and a national lever as an anti-party party?

2. How can we help people to feel more involved in the wellbeing of their community? (Marianne)

How do we show people who are feeling isolated from our community that they have worth and that we want to hear their voice? (Kaye)

There are many people in Northam who are isolated and would benefit from a cultural hub – a community ‘encounter’, a positivity café.

Could we approach Torridge volunteer services to each locals who have declared themselves fragile or isolated? And Torridge community van hire, to transport people to and from a get together?

Morwenna Park has a community room with a kitchen that could be a useful venue. The Mermaid’s Teacup Cafe, is going to be reopening which could be a potential venue. (NB this is no longer happening but if anyone is interested, the owners are keen to support such an initiative)

There was a call for a Northam Community page on Facebook or another platform.

Not everyone does social media but behind every face there is a story. By listening to people we can learn about each other and help people to feel valued members of a community. So how about a storytelling space for adults with an emphasis on recounting times in our lives when something positive occurred?

There was interest to bring generations together – how can we attract kids and teenagers too?

We could host affordable activities for children and adults – e.g. drama classes, chess clubs and ‘pop up’ activities like doing the conga on the street.

How can we encourage people to feel good about themselves – motivational chalking, flash mobs, the hello campaign (say hello to a stranger once a day).

3. There is evidence to suggest that in 30 years time, sea level rise will affect communities in Northam, Appledore and Bideford – what do we do? (Sue)

We need to make sure that town and district councils recognise the climate emergency – they may have made public statements, but how are they putting this into practice?

People from Extinction Rebellion and all who are concerned, can put pressure on councils to act. TCG councillors can help to ensure that they listen and continue to exert pressure.

XR are going to give a talk on Climate Change, which could be shared with the council.
Torridge District Council - Peter Christie and Peter Hames are both Green councillors – Peter Hames is also the Lead Member for Climate Change.

What are the plans to build on flood zones?

The people are kept in the dark as much as possible around planning and development and people need to take more of an interest to make sure that things become more transparent. Some committees have more power than others - Let’s challenge the Community and Resource Committees at Torridge District Council and North Devon District Council.

How do we challenge the council? As people who have relevant knowledge and then tackle the council when equipped with useful information and strategy.

We can make sure that Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Wildlife Trust and other organisations are kept aware of potential developments.

We discussed demonstrations and public action – however we must wok to make sure that we don’t alienate people and appear to be acting politically. Most people who take to the streets are left leaning.

We need to start growing our own food to make sure that we can become more self sufficient and offset problems due to food shortages.

The energy network is already very fragile – can we build community owned energy coops?

4. Let’s work to make every community in Torridge sustainable in terms of food, transport and social housing (Jeremy)

A survey of housing needs is required for us to understand how much and what types of housing are required.

All new-build housing must be carbon neutral – built to Passivhaus standard with solar panels on the roof etc.

Build council houses to this standard also, so that less well-off people do not have heating bills.

Local authorities need to plant millions of trees – Devon County Council should provide the land. District and town councils get local people involved to sow trees seeds, grow saplings, plant trees. The result is that the council feels supported and people feel that their council is engaging with them.

Plant swaps – increasing biodiversity in our gardens and sharing information and skill around plants and trees – perhaps at No More Miles Market?

Future of transport – how can we encourage people to use public transport, to walk and cycle?

The future is with Hydrogen rather than electric. Electric cars will still cause traffic jams and will still require significant energy.

How do we persuade people to move away from a car based economy? There’s an important social aspect to public transport, which helps to connect people together.

Let’s build more cycle paths, walkways and green corridors.

5. Is there a desire in this community to (re)connect with wider nature? (Pete)

What if we lived in a sustainable, supportive & resourceful community? (Maya)

What would tit look like? – A localised, circular economy, where folk are confident to share their passions.

We would be aware if our needs and match these to resources / assets.

More local artisans especially around food production with food co-ops helping people to get what they need and to sell locally.

More sharing – transport, tools, food surplus etc.

More wilding, with wild spaces connected with corridors to help species to travel and increase gene pools.

Walking groups to learn how to identify edible plants, nature appreciation etc.

When the weather improves, let’s have People’s Assemblies Outside so that we can think more actively about the nature around us.

6. How do we help people who have difficulty in getting things repaired and reduce waste? (Stephen)

Can we have litter disposal that is segregated? (Eleanor)

Can we have a day where we drop off furniture to share in a location?

The Northam Encounters event to host a repair corner where Stephen (and others?) can offer their services. This would be on the understanding that the item may be beyond help!

The Men’s Shed in Torrington is also a place where people can work together and learn new skills.

In the spring (when weather improves) there could be a furniture drop off outside the hall, in the carpark for people to take away, mend, reupholster etc.

An equipment noticeboard could help people to share tools and other equipment, perhaps leading to some kind of swap shop?

How does Torridge District Council dispose of their recycling? Is our rubbish separated effectively and therefore useful? Can it be better, more economical, safe, sustainable?

Let’s get creative about swapping – e.g. a Lett’s scheme in which people can swap services, like baby sitting.

Other questions:

Can we have an organic local pub with local ales at the Golden Lion?

Can we have a place to gather vegetables for the needy?

Can we start a book group at the library?

Could we have an artisan organic baker in Northam?

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