Sometimes with a public meeting, you just can't predict how many people might turn up but you hope it will be a decent number. Gathered in Kensworth Village Hall last night, the recurrent phrase I heard as we neared the official start time was "we are going to need more chairs!" Out came the chairs and in came more people. The rough head count was 70, an excellent turn out on a cold November evening.
The meeting was opened by Mrs Pat Mitchell, chair of Kensworth Parish Council, ably assisted by her vice-chair John Worboys. I had been invited along, together with Cllr Richard Stay, to share our experiences in the work to date on the Caddington & Slip End Neighbourhood Plan.
Discussion was initially about the recent legislation that has introduced Neighbourhood Planning and what, in practical terms, the process can achieve for parishes like Kensworth. The simple question being explored was "Is this a good thing for the village to be contemplating?"
There was some healthy debate, Cllr Stay and I offering extra detail where we could and answered questions, and some interesting ideas began to emerge as to what might be achievable. This eventually led to the question being put to the room "is Neighbourhood Planning a good idea for Kensworth?"; almost every hand went up in support and none against. Volunteers were invited to leave contact details so that the process of forming a team can begin.
Preparing a Neighbourhood Plan is extremely hard work, but our experience in Caddington & Slip End is that it can also be very rewarding. An effective team comprises a good cross-section of the community and it is amazing the specialised skills and knowledge that can be revealed amongst people that you previously knew nothing more about than the fact they live in the same village as you. I wish the people of Kensworth well in their endeavours, and will be happy to lend whatever practical assistance I can.