Presteigne is a small border town with a population of around two and a half thousand. The community is vibrant, with an internationally renowned contemporary classical music festival and many other smaller festivals and community activities.
There is a good high street which still supports local shops such as a butcher, greengrocer and chemist but the numbers of local businesses offering essential services have declined over the years as people have got used to travelling 15 to 20 miles to nearby larger towns which host large super markets.
A group of residents approached the council with the proposal that land was made available for allotments. In the past, the council had the foresight to buy a piece of land called Went’s Meadow, and a portion of this was made available for allotments. Some of the town councillors did the work as volunteers. The town council supplied land and the county council paid for the fencing, supply of water and ploughing before handing it over to the group. There are now 35 allotments with a waiting list of four.
In response to a request from citizens, the council has also released land on Went’s Meadow to be developed as a community orchard, which will be planted in autumn 2011. Crucial to achieving the outcomes of the new allotments and the orchard was the fact that the council already owned land which had been bought some years ago.
Presteigne and Norton were selected as the Zero Waste town for Wales - an innovative scheme that aims to act as a test bed for larger scale schemes. The scheme was launched by the Welsh Government in 2007. The scheme in Presteigne is managed by Cwm Harry Land Trust and its implementation has been made possible by a partnership approach involving Cwm Harry Land Trust, Presteigne and Norton Town Council and Powys County Council.
The scheme has found favour with the local residents as it involves an element of democratic decision making in deciding how the community should benefit from revenue generated from realising the value of recyclable waste. The residents are asked to contribute by pre-sorting the waste which is then further sorted at the kerbside. It is a slower process than simply throwing everything into a black bag and burying it but the concept of sustainability requires us to focus less on time efficiency and more on optimisation. The Zero Waste project will provide on completion a data set proving the efficacy of this approach which can then be replicated and improved upon across the UK.
The old memorial hall was a post-war assemblege of re-used army huts and plans for a new hall have been developing over the last five years. At the end of April 2010 the council submitted an application for £500,000 to The Big Lottery People and Places Fund. If successful, the new building will be an exemplar of sustainable practice going above and beyond current minimum requirements in energy/water efficiency and the use of sustainable materials. The council are prepared to undertake the extra workload of submitting funding bids to bodies such as The National Lottery.
The town council is supporting an attempt to establish a wood fuel pellet mill on the site of an old feed mill, which will re-use some of the established machinery. The current financial crisis has slowed the progress of this £10 million project but the option to proceed still exists and the council hopes that the mill will go into production using mainly locally sourced wood waste as a feedstock.
The Safe Routes To School project aims to provide a cycle and walking route from the nearby village of Norton to Presteigne as well as safe corridors through the town. Many people walk between the two settlements and the provision of a safer route would be welcomed.
Powys County Council wanted to close the public conveniences in the town but the town council agreed to take on the lease and now maintains them through a contract with a cleaner and paying for building maintenance when required.
Other projects and work streams that the council supports but is not so directly involved in include the provision of affordable housing and home energy surveys.
The council’s success in achieving these outcomes is owed in large part to the work of enthusiastic and committed individuals. Both in the community and the council itself there are key individuals who have the passion and energy to work until outcomes are achieved. Another key element is the support and partnership from many organisations.
The council also owes its success to a long period of constructive stability. Individuals are familiar with each other and have built bonds of professional trust and respect.
The council is not averse to taking on new challenges or responsibilities. Presteigne is a very vibrant community in which people are willing to form partnerships which are fundamental to promoting sustainability.
Thanks to:- Cllr. James Tennant-Eyles, Mayor and council leader.
Cwm Harry Land Trust
Lightfoot Enterprises (Home Energy Survey)
Powys County Council