Area Planning – Working Together on Shared Priorities

This month we begin with the first of a series of articles from Cumbria County Council providing updates on the ‘area planning’ work taking place in some of the main towns in Cumbria. Area planning is all about joining things up in the local area and improving the services people can access in their communities, and so it’s likely that many third sector organisations will be interested in getting involved.  This month the focus is on Eden…..

By Nick Wright, Cumbria County Council
Cumbria County Council has a long tradition of working with communities. We have six well-established Local Area Committees made up of County Council Elected Members representing each local area.

We engage with residents in a wide range of ways. Local Members know their communities well and champion their aspirations. They utilise connections in their localities and our area-working approach includes a focus on supporting Members in this role to maximise their impact as community leaders.

Partnership working is critical to developing our understanding of place, and we are continuously seeking ways to enrich this understanding. The council often refers to this partnership approach as ‘area planning’ which, put simply, is the process of working together, using all of our resources, to jointly deliver on shared priorities. It seeks to consider, in a holistic way, how such activity can bring about benefits whilst considering and carefully managing any direct and indirect consequences.

What’s happening in Eden?

Current area planning priorities in Eden:

  • Access to services
  • Developing strong and resilient communities
  • Supporting a better quality of jobs in the area

In Eden, the area planning process is starting with the district’s largest town and also it’s most remote – Penrith and Alston.

Penrith is the largest and most frequented town within Eden. With a population of over 15,000 it has the largest concentration of residents; it’s the employment hub and often the first port of call for tourists visiting the wider district. As the main service centre for a district which already has 26% of its residents over the age of 65, a large proportion of council services are delivered from the town – 60% of all Eden’s regulated community based adult social support services are delivered in Penrith. So a thriving Penrith, supports the entire district.

Current action in Penrith…

  • The County Council, District Council and Town Council along with the town’s Chamber of Trade and both Business Improvement Districts have formed a working group to drive forward local initiatives.
  • The group are planning on performing a series of place audits around the town to determine some quick visual wins and longer term priorities.
  • Arrangements are being finalised to commission a study investigating issues and improvements with regards parking and movement around the town.
  • The Integrated Care Community Hub based at Penrith Hospital continues to grow with a Third-Sector Referral Co-ordinator, Jayne Povey, who started at the end of June.  You can email her on:

While we’re piloting a method of co-ordinating priority-based area working in Penrith, there is plenty going on in our second priority area of Alston. At 1000ft above sea level, and the highest market town in England, Alston is among the most remote parts of Eden. However, with one social enterprise per 50 households – it has addressed this by developing a culture of delivering local solutions. The key to successful area planning in the town is combining this energy with statutory and third sector resources.

Current action in Alston…

  • Plans are being considered around developing an expression of interest to take over the old primary school to create a multi-purpose community asset.
  • The steering group that is considering proposals around Front Street is engaging with residents over investigatory work for the early phases of the project.
  • The new Community Transport Group is developing new ways of improving movement options from the town.
  • There has been a community asset transfer of Nenthead mine.

Where will we be going next?

Area planning is a rolling programme of highlighting and seeking to achieve local opportunities. While Penrith and Alston will continue, we’ll also look to build momentum around the process in Appleby and Kirkby Stephen. If you have suggestions for projects or ideas for developments for any of these towns, we’d like to hear from you. You can contact the Eden Community Development Team on…

Penrith and Alston
Tracey Moran:
Tel: 01768 812662 / 0781 4481177

Appleby and Kirkby Stephen
Kellie Bradburn-Sims:
Tel: 01768 812661 / 07827 232479