The small market town of Bewdley and its neighbouring parishes have 10,000 residents, all of whom are supported by a community interest company with a big vision. It began with the devastating floods at the turn of the millennium, which were followed by the equally damaging impact on the town of foot-and-mouth disease. The town was left with flood defences that needed upgrading and a badly damaged local economy affected by the loss of tourism.
So Bewdley joined the Market Town Initiative, a programme run by the regional development agency, Advantage West Midlands. Opportunity Bewdley, a partnership of local people, businesses and organisations, was created to administer the programme. It oversaw lots of small initiatives, such as a new skate park, a community fair, heritage trails and new bus shelters, which led to a total of £1m inward investment in the town.
In 2006, when the Market Town programme finished, there were a series of community meetings. It was decided that the work on improving Bewdley should continue through a locally constituted group – thus the Bewdley Development Trust CIC was born.
Bewdley Development Trust manager Peter Miller says the CIC structure was chosen because the founders wanted “maximum flexibility with community accountability”. They wanted “the freedom to act entrepreneurially to generate income but also to retain accountability, especially through the asset lock”.
This feature is particularly important given that one of the Trust’s key plans is to own and manage community buildings, as well as a green energy project that would provide locally generated energy and income for local stakeholders. It’s all part of the Trust’s long-term vision of making the town more sustainable. “We’re keen that in the future it will have more local food, infrastructure and energy,” says Miller.
Using its two staff and very active directors, as well as its growing membership base, the Trust has also been involved in talking to the local authorities about strategic planning for the town and ways to celebrate what makes Bewdley distinctive. It runs a website for the town and is seeking to use digital media to make it easier for residents to contact each other and be involved in local decision-making.
In the tradition of all great trusts, Bewdley Development Trust is working on many different projects, adapting quickly as circumstances change and looking out for new opportunities. This, argues Miller, is exactly the position it should be in, “You always need big plans,” he says. “The Trust helps to bring people together and to show people that if you act together you can make things happen rather than just be victims of external events”.
||Bewdley Development Trust
||CIC limited by guarantee
|Community interest statement
||Bewdley Development Trust is a community-led partnership, the sole objective of which is to deliver benefit to the town.
Find out more about Bewdley Development Trust