About the Vision
Barnard Castle Vision (BCV) was established in 2006 to lead a 20-year programme of economic regeneration activities within the town of Barnard Castle. Initially membership of the partnership included Teesdale District Council as accountable body for funding, Teesdale LSP, One NorthEast, Durham County Council, County Durham Economic Partnership, a voluntary and community sector representative, Teesdale Marketing Limited and the Enterprise Agency.
A broad programme of activity strands developing the actual and potential resources of the town linked to physical areas within it was agreed, underpinned by core principles of benefit to residents, young people, inward investors, and visitors, and a commitment to ‘transformational change’.
The delivery team is managed by an officer in Economic Regeneration and includes a small number of specialist staff on either a secondment or contract basis.
The BCV has been responsible for 15 projects, which have spent £1,962,000 of One North East funding within Barnard Castle. This sum includes initial research, survey, delivery team and development costs. Achievements are as follows:
· Building the Digital Dale broadband infrastructure.
· Preparing comprehensive designs for the forthcoming redevelopment of the Witham Hall.
· Creating and managing NeST gallery, cafe and digital studio on the site of a former car salesroom on Newgate.
· Setting up and supporting the Barney Guild of retailers to make a stronger, more competitive retail offer in the town centre; providing support and resources for festivals and shopping events, Christmas celebrations, and improvement to festive lighting.
· Investing in shop improvement grants for retailers; including ongoing business viability support and consultancy.
· Seeking, identifying and working with potential inward investors, leading to a significant reduction in vacancy rates within the town. Publishing and disseminating materials for investors.
· Raising the profile of the town through professional and other networks, nationally and internationally, including press features in the Washington Post, a visit by an OECD reporting team, profile at the EU conference on citizenship in Malmo, national engagement with NESTA, and a wide variety of other connections.
· Improving parking access with a new entrance to and upgrading of the Hole in the Wall car park.
· Making improvements to the riverside footpaths through lighting and clearing of pathways; involving local volunteers through the 1000 Voices project.
· A study into the viability of installing hydroelectric plant near the town.
· Providing and installing new energy efficient lighting to illuminate the Castle in evening hours.
· Commissioning studies into improving the protection of and access to the Market Cross, and managing the on-going provision of assessment and repair.
· Forging international partnerships with European towns to createopportunities for joint working and submission of EU funding bids.
· Engaging with and bringing to the region one of the biggest providers of apprenticeships in France, trialling three craft placements in Barnard Castle, and ensuring that their UK office is now based in the North East. Participation on the UK steering group of new developments to create European apprenticeships across the region and elsewhere, creating placements for Teesdale.
· Connecting with large scale investment projects at Digital City in Middlesbrough to create new opportunities for businesses in Teesdale;and becoming their first rural satellite, gaining funding and other resource for the town.
· Completing detailed comprehensive appraisals of 10 potential development sites to aid discussions with developers.
· Providing a masterplan for Shaw Bank and detailed studies to bring improvements to the streetscape, transport and access for the town.
· Commissioning and developing a comprehensive landscape study working with one of the UK’s leading landscape architects, resulting in a programme of projects to upgrade and maintain the natural assets of the town.
· Developing and intitiating the implementation of a coherent and aesthetically appropriate way-finding strategy.
· Investing in tourism and local food projects to help increase visitor numbers and provide vital help for local retail and service providers such as B&Bs and hotels; including time-limited projects to assist farmers and food producers during difficult periods.
· Resourcing and managing the Witham cinema project, including holding a Film and Animation festival with local creative businesses.
· Running a programme of leadership events bringing together leadership expertise from local, regional, national and international platforms to benefit the town.
· Working with young people and children to identify their ideas for the town and to support a number of projects including provision of interactive studio facilities to Teesdale school, and the creation of a ‘young vision’ group.
· The 1000 Voices engagement project, which to date has gathered approximately 200 local people to contribute to and find out about the Vision’s work on a regular basis.
In addition to this the Barnard Castle Vision successfully applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund for £87,000 of landscape development funding. This initial funding enabled the Vision to work towards securing a full HLF grant of £1.9m to enhance the landscape of Barnard Castle and the surrounding area, incorporating many of the projects arising from the Vision’s existing landscape strategy.
The current governance model has developed from a structure proposed by EKOS Consulting in 2007 to oversee the development and implementation of a 20 year programme of regeneration activities in Barnard Castle, and has been amended twice in recent years to reflect the needs of the work programme.
A key consideration from the outset has been to ensure effective delivery. This is important not only in terms of community engagement and delivery of the overall Vision, but also in delivering key regeneration projects and interventions which arise from this. The priority was and remains to have a regeneration vision for Barnard Castle which is not only ambitious and maximises the economic contribution of the Town, but which also reflects the views of local people, is realistic and deliverable.
A report produced by Ekos Consulting in 2007 (undertaken prior to the development of the BCV Partnership Board) set out potential delivery model options and made clear recommendations on the governance arrangements for both the development and delivery phases of a regeneration partnership in Barnard Castle. A strong focus was placed on ensuring that the delivery mechanism was sustainable, sought to achieve maximum value for money, avoided duplication and ensured that as much resource as possible was directed towards project implementation.
Following this, appropriate arrangements to oversee the development of the BCV Partnership structure were agreed. These involved:
· Clear and transparent principles of governance and terms of reference.
· A focused management board supported by partnership structures and accountable body.
· An independent chair; and a dedicated delivery team.
· An accountable body taking responsibility for the legal and financial management of the BCV – particularly with reference to the management of public sector funding resources. This provides a clear audit trail for funds defrayed, oversees contract management and ensures that cashflow is adequately sustained. This was previously Teesdale District Council and became Durham County Council at Local Government Re-organisation.
· Strong engagement between the public, private and voluntary sectors, a factor which has been key to the success of the BCV.
The Community Engagement Strategy for the Vision was developed to ensure local residents and businesses effectively engaged and influenced the activities of BCV. Mediums used include Radio Teesdale, the local press and the internet, which are important in communicating and co-ordinating the latest information about new developments as well as gaining input and views. All press releases are signed off by the DCC press office.
The governance model adopted is set out below and is structured around a small, focused, high calibre Board, with an independent Chair. The involvement of wider communities of interest has been formalised through the establishment of project steering groups and through liaison via the 1000 Voices project. The project steering groups bring additional expertise through Durham County Council officers, individuals, businesses and local and regional organisations. This mechanism ensures stakeholders not represented on the Board have the opportunity to feed into the development and delivery. The membership of the Board brings specific project-related skills and experience of relevance to the work programme:
· Durham County Council (as accountable body)
· Business Sector
· Rural Specialist
· Education Sector
· Voluntary Sector
· Independent Chair
In terms of DCC there are 3 representatives: Regeneration and Economic Development Portfolio Holder, the Corporate Director of Regeneration and Economic Development, and the Head of Economic Development.
Additionally, a community interest company (CIC) has been created, primarily to provide the opportunity to gather resources and activities which could not be committed to statutory authorities and to run commercial activities to generate sustainable income for further projects of benefit to the town. Currently the biggest of these is NeST, which operates as a creative space for digital and creative businesses (eg filmmakers, photographers, architects, graphic designers and visual artists), combined with gallery and café spaces. For instance, the NeST creative studios and gallery buildings are leased by the CIC.
Community Interest Companies are limited companies, with special additional features, created for the use of people who want to conduct a business or other activity for community benefit, and not purely for private advantage. This is achieved by a “community interest test” and “asset lock”, which ensure that the CIC is established for community purposes and the assets and profits are dedicated to these purposes. Registration of a company as a CIC has to be approved by the Regulator who also has a continuing monitoring and enforcement role.
During the past four years BCV has implemented regeneration projects in several key areas within Barnard Castle, such as site and retail development, master planning and landscape enhancement and development of the digital and creative sectors. It has intervened in the public realm, has established links with similar organisations in other parts of Europe, and has carried out several projects that have had a considerable impact on the town.
The original programme objectives recognised the inter-connected nature of intervention required to ensure the continued adaptation and prosperity of the town and the requirement for a flexible response as needs have been addressed and priorities have emerged. Between 2007 and 2011 the pattern of assistance from the BCV Partnership shifted strongly away from an initial emphasis on research, planning and project preparation, towards delivery and completion of physical projects. The existing governance model has changed to incorporate DCC elected member, the Regeneration and Economic Development Porfolio holder.
In future, there will be new projects to be researched and developed, and it should not be assumed that major funding for new physical projects will be impossible, as is currently evidenced by the recently awarded budget of £3m to the Heart of Teesdale programme. BCV is only one quarter of the way through the original time-frame of 20 years. In the future, with the absence of ONE funding and limited spend available to the County Council, BCV will need to demonstrate a clear purpose which can be delivered through success in attracting external funds. A focus on delivering the Witham, landscape and other projects and co-ordination and promotion will be important, alongside the generation of new programmes and projects and the pursuit of the original thematic strands identified by the partnership.