Sprowston is an urban settlement to the north of Norwich, separated from the city by the outer ring road. It has a population of approximately 15,000 and the town council has a total precept of just over £500,000 with a budgeted income of £644,000.
Sprowston Town Council captured our attention recently when looking for case studies to demonstrate, and promote use of, the General Power of Competence. Sprowston has made use of the power in so many ways and achieved so much, making us pleased to be able to share their story as inspiration for others to follow.
Having identified the provision of a community centre as the top local priority through a Neighbourhood Plan consultation, Sprowston Town Council was quick to act when Norfolk County Council indicated that it intended to dispose of a youth and community building on the edge of Sprowston. The town council decided to bid for the school to convert it into a multi-use community centre, using the General Power of Competence to develop and manage the facility while community groups and others, along with the council, provide services from it.
Sprowston Town Council has funded the Diamond Centre by re-prioritising existing services and renting out the former town council offices, with staff relocating to the centre where they can also help run it.
The old school is being refurbished internally to provide modern facilities, while preserving the external appearance which is a heritage asset valued by local people. The Sprowston Diamond Centre is already being used by range of community groups including a nursery, yoga classes and a film club and meeting rooms are being hired out to the community and voluntary sector for training and corporate functions. We are told that the building is thriving - with many users praising the standard of facilities.
The council has found the Power of Competence advantageous as it no longer has to look for “powers” in providing for the Sprowston community. Other examples of using the power include:
The acquisition of adjacent land to Sprowston Diamond Centre for additional car parking;
Gritting of pavements in extreme weather conditions. This has also proved cost effective as it has reduced the number of requests for grit bins to be placed around the town and all residents benefit from this service;
Holding a health fair which identified a need to support the elderly population. The council purchased items of winter warming and gave them to participants at the event, such as slippers, warm blankets, thermometers, thermos cups, hats and scarfs. The council is now working with the community to identify their future needs;
A weight management class with no fee to participants as Sprowston has been identified as having a high percentage of overweight pensioners. The success of this has developed into an exercise class for that age group held at the community building.
Adopting a Neighbourhood Plan has given the people of Sprowston the opportunity to determine the future of the town. For decades, planning has been centralised at the District Council, who have made all of the decisions relating to the parish. However now, the council has consulted the residents, businesses, landowners, developers and other stakeholder organisations to form the Neighbourhood Plan which will become part of the Broadland Local Development Framework within which the area will develop over the next 12 years.
NALC is delighted to see how Sprowston is using its Neighbourhood Plan and clearly identified local priorities to demonstrate need and take action when opportunities arise using the General Power of Competence.
Congratulations to all at Sprowston Town Council!