Council of the Week: Southbourne Parish Council
Southbourne Parish Council is the well deserving Council of the Week for amongst other things being the first parish council in England to be accepted onto the Locality/Department of Communities and Local Government Community Ownership and Management of Assets (COMA) programme in 2015/16.
Southbourne is the most westerly of the parishes in West Sussex, comprised of three settlement areas on the shores of Chichester Harbour, in the shadow of the South Downs. The best estimates are that the population of Southbourne is greater than 6,500. Southbourne is located on the A259 about midway between Portsmouth and Chichester, in Sussex. The parish council’s precept for 2015/16 is £102,018. Southbourne Parish Council is by national standards a smaller parish council with big ambitions for its area.
The parish council is leading the Southbourne Partnership Area in Sussex as part of the Community Ownership and Management of Assets (COMA). The programme is designed to attract Partnership Areas comprised of local government and other public sector agencies wanting to establish a road-map for future complex or multiple asset transfers in the Partnership Areas.
A significant aim of the Southbourne COMA application is to commence the work to establish the green ring, which is a biodiverse community amenity space and to provide new safe walkways for residents avoiding two recognised dangerous footpaths both crossing a level crossing and one being close to a school. The green ring will also act as mitigation against the inevitable potential for human disturbance to the protected habitats of the nearby Chichester Harbour Conservation Area caused by the construction of 300 new homes in the village. Further to a recent NALC recommendation to approve the application, the Locality grant panel was delighted to approve the parish council application to the COMA programme, thereby making Southbourne one of the few parish council-led areas so far to be accepted onto COMA. Other parished areas have followed suit and are now applying to the programme.
Though there have been no completed asset transfers yet by the parish council, the council is playing a leading role in attempting to move forward with the asset transfer process with a (COMA) pre-feasibility grant, triggered as a result of a Neighbourhood Plan. The council has also played a leading role in developing and delivering a Neighbourhood Plan for Southbourne (the submission documents are available here).
Work the council has spear-headed and is otherwise facilitating as a result of its Neighbourhood Plan include the following: monitoring and managing wildlife; developing the green ring; surveying community buildings; and improving provision for cyclists.
The council deserves to be commended by Surrey and Sussex Associations of Local Council to be Council of the Week as it is an extremely active council for one of its size and its acceptance onto the COMA programme (largely aimed at principal authorities) is a huge boon to both the parish sector and its own residents.