Then, as in any relationship, the niggles start. Parking problems, dog poo on pavements, why can’t I walk or cycle safely to Ford Station? Whatever riles you, you can be sure many other Arundel residents feel the same. As the Love Arundel project discovered…
In 2019, some motivated residents started a project to find out what residents love about Arundel and what could be better, and this led to the ‘Love Arundel? Let’s Talk’ consultations.
“We all know Arundel is beautiful, and love living here” says Andy Batty, founder of The Arundel Project. “We set out to find out what residents feel is ‘the essence of Arundel’, and to understand what improvements, if any, most residents would welcome.”
Throughout October 2019, in what became known as Love Arundel, there were 5 residents’ meetings where 200 people shared their thoughts and ideas – filling 1,700 post it notes.
The team members also talked to representatives from Arundel Castle, the Lido, Arundel Cathedral, Arundel Museum, the WWT (The Wetlands) and the Castle Cricket Ground; and hosted sessions for traders, businesses and accommodation providers in Arundel. Around 100 people attended these sessions, most of whom are also residents.
“We were delighted by the number of people who turned up and the generosity of local organisations who let us host meetings in their premises,” says Andy. “In all we heard from 300 people, who represent a great cross section of Arundel residents and businesses, and we were surprised by the level of consensus about what people would like to see.”
When the project team worked through the post it notes to collate the feedback, key themes emerged.
For more detailed information about views shared during the Love Arundel consultations, please visit https://www.letstalkarundel.com.
After the Love Arundel sessions, the team also reviewed residents’ views from the 2018 Neighbourhood Plan process and research carried out in 2007 by the Arundel Community Partnership. Interestingly, they discovered that not only do residents broadly agree on what needs to be done now, they have been saying the same things for many years. This further bolstered the belief that these are indeed the issues about which our community cares most.
“We all agree on 95% of things” says Andy, “Yet, we seem to spend a lot of time and energy arguing about the 5%. If we work together on our shared ideas, with sensible, balanced debates, we might see more progress.”
To understand more, the Love Arundel team met with the various councils and the elected representatives that serve Arundel – Arundel Town Council, Arun District Council, West Sussex County Council, our local MP and South Downs National Park Association.
The team learned that all these organisations have objectives, budgets and resources that could benefit Arundel more, but we are just one small town within each of their remits. For example, Arun District Council are naturally pulled to focus on Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, the two largest towns in the district, both of which face different challenges to Arundel. Yet, although Arundel only has around 3,500 residents, the town welcomes more than 500,000 visitors each year.
“So, we need to punch our weight with the regional councils, and balance the needs of residents, visitors and businesses,” explains Andy. “If Arundel can be clear about what it wants, and more proactive about engaging with all external organisations, we could see big benefits for town. The onus is on us to know what our priorities are and to proactively engage.”
Andy continues, “In any society, at any time, we can wait for things to happen or we can decide to take action. If Arundel doesn’t change its approach, then many of the issues will not get resolved and we will still be talking about them five, or even 10, years from now. We hope our Town Council will seize the opportunity to become more activist on our behalf, which they have the legal framework to do under the 2011 Localism Act.”
However, Andy stresses that the council cannot shoulder the burden for change without help. “Arundel Town Council, actually a Parish council, is made up of unpaid, volunteer councillors and a small office staff. It is unrealistic to expect them to do all the work to deliver this alone. What residents say they would like to see is only achievable with some funded paid staff, more of us volunteering to help on projects and a more assertive approach to fund raising – for example if we could raise £1 per week per household that would create a budget of around £75,000 a year, which could go a long way. The recent decision to create a new town manager role is a big step to help better represent Arundel. Arundel is full of amazing people with incredible experience, skills and interests. We all need to think, ‘If I want this done, I need to help’.”
“Remember we agree on 95% and love living here,” says Andy, “As a community we can choose to get these things done together and ensure Arundel stays special.”
The Arundel Project team are working with Arundel Town Council and are hopeful that post the Covid-19 lockdown the council will formally adopt one comprehensive town plan.
Once this happens the team will re-invigorate the Arundel Community Partnership. If you are interested in running one of the projects or playing an active role to help deliver the Arundel Community Plan, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org