The formation of the Parish Plan was launched in October 2009 with a well attended public meeting in the Witton Gilbert Village Hall. The steering committee designed a questionnaire which was sent to every household and establishment in the parish in June 2010. The completed questionnaire was collected through the cooperation of the post office, parish church and shops. There was a disappointingly low but nevertheless significant return. The data was analysed and in January 2011 a second public meeting was held to give the community an opportunity to see the preliminary results and to make further comment. Additionally, local businesses were approached for further input and the Village School and Fyndoune Community College were invited to put forward their views. Following this consultative process, focus groups were set up to look more closely at the individual sections arising from the questionnaire and with a view to developing future strategy. The published plan is derived from the comments arising from the meetings and interviews together with the results of the questionnaire and a copy of the Parish Plan was delivered to every household in the Parish.
The consultation showed that there is a desire for more local shops and the community also expressed a need to provide a focus, a meeting point, a concentration of activity, where the Community could encounter each other, all ages and social groups. There were many comments on the unsightly appearance and siting of the White Tun and options and opportunities to recreate a Village Centre.
A new and attractive Village Centre has been the talk of residents for some time and the Parish Council with the support of the Neighbourhood Plan team held consultation events in Cooper Hall on 30th November 2014, 21st February 2015 & 30th May 2015.
On 19th December 2015 a consultation meeting was held for residents to view and discuss the proposed plans to improve the area around McColl’s new shop. Many people left suggestions on landscaping, access, traffic calming and footpaths particularly linking Durham Gardens and Brookside. The Parish Council have a few legal issues to resolve with McColls and have appointed a design company to take the project forward. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and Parish Council members feel that we must get it right.
Funding the project is an issue and whilst the Parish Precept has not risen for 8 years the Council will have to find a substantial amount of money so an increase this year has been unavoidable. In January this year the Parish Council in creased the precept from £29,500 to £65,500 to provide extra money to fund the design and initial construction works for the scheme to start in 2016 with the remainder of the funding to come from grants and a loan from the Public Works Loan Board, which will be paid back over the coming 5 years
It is estimated that the Village Centre could cost around £120.000 and funding will be sought from the Durham Area Partnership, our County Councillors Neighbourhood Budgets, Section 106 money from the Wallnook Grange development at Witton Station and other sources.
At the Parish Council meeting on 8th February 2016 the Parish Council appointed Southerngreen Charted Landscape Architects to design the Village Centre who from Spring 2016 will be preparing, briefing, consulting and developing a Masterplan ‘Concept Design’ to allow for additional funding bids to be sought and prioritisation of work then the development of a detailed design of the full scheme with a works value of around £120.000, submission of planning and assistance with funding bids through to commencement of work. During this process all residents will be able to participate in design workshops and be able to make a contribution to the final design of the Village Centre Project.