Independent and not-for-profit with 30 years' expertise in planning, community planning and engagement


Island Policy for Rathlin

We are delighted to congratulate Rathlin Development and Community Association now that its dedication and efforts in lobbying for a policy specific to the island have finally paid off. For many years islanders have spent a lot of time and energy working to ensure the provision of basic services, which most people on the mainland take for granted.  Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy announced the Executive's endorsement of a central government policy for Rathlin Island during a visit to the island on 10 June 2009 when he opened the Association's new Community Resource Centre.

Mr Murphy said: “Today marks a new way forward for the community here on Rathlin. As the only off-shore inhabited island in the North of Ireland, we have developed in partnership with the islanders, a central government policy which recognises and sets out to address the unique challenges experienced by island life. This new policy protects the island's heritage and way of life yet promotes its viability and sustainability now and for the future. 

This policy will now allow the Executive to proactively respond to the needs of the islanders on issues around public transport and roads infrastructure, health and social care, education and schooling, agriculture, community development, tourism and economic development."

19 June 2009

Community Planning - Help Available

Our Supporting Communities in Community Planning Project is providing information and capacity building on Community Planning, the new RPA structures and on developing Local Community Plans which focus on community issues and provide models for the future.

If you want to know more about how we can work with your community, please contact Annie Clarke on 028 9023 9444 or by email at

18 June 2009

New Community Plan for Scrabo

We have completed the first Local Community Plan in the region since the RPA changes were first announced. The Plan is for the Scrabo Estate in Newtownards and provides a model for the introduction of Community Planning across the new Council area covering Ards and North Down.

Working closely with the Ards Community Network we facilitated a series of planning workshops for the Scrabo Residents' Association, Ards Borough Council, NIHE, South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, Investing for Health, PSNI and DSD Areas at Risk Programme. Through these workshops the partners agreed and prioritised issues for short and medium term action. Many of these are well under way through two working groups set up by all the partners. The Plan was officially launched on Monday, 9 March 2009.

10 June 2009

Local Communities and Politicians Prepare for Change

Bright sunshine on the morning of Friday, 20 March 2009 greeted almost 100 representatives from the community and voluntary sector, statutory agencies and local political parties to a Networking and Planning for Change Conference, at the Somme Heritage Centre on the outskirts of Newtownards.

The conference was co-hosted by the Ards Development Bureau and Community Network, North Down Community Network and Community Places. It was the first step in bringing together the two council areas of Ards Borough Council and North Down Borough Council under the new 'super council' cluster of North Down and Ards District Council. Cathy Rice, one of the organisers, explained "this is the first example in the region of local communities coming together with statutory agencies and local politicians to prepare for the changes in local government which will happen in 2011".

The conference introduced the new Transition Committee, a joint committee of local councillors from both Councils. Councillor Angus Carson, co-chair of the new Committee gave a very in depth presentation on the role and the responsibilities assigned to the committee. An overview of Community Planning by Community Places' Colm Bradley clarified the role of all agencies and the community in the Community Planning process, with examples from Scotland of how local community planning can make a real difference at 'grassroots' level.

The open discussion which followed, reinforced the great opportunity local residents, statutory agencies and politicians will have to meet the needs of local communities in a much more effective way. However, there was also concern at the 'squeezing out' of small community groups and therefore the importance of ensuring that all groups are kept informed and continue to build on the relationships developed at the event.

Those in attendance included local politicians and statutory representatives from Ards Borough Council, North Down Borough Council, Northern Ireland Housing Executive, South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, South Eastern Education and Library Board and the Department of Social Development's Voluntary and Community Unit. The Community and Voluntary sector was represented by local networks and groups including Ards Development Bureau and Community Network, North Down Community Network, East Down Rural Community Network, Scrabo Residents' Association and Disability Matters North Down.

A very informative and productive morning was had by all with Cathy Rice of Ards Development Bureau and Community Network closing the conference by highlighting that 'although many challenges still lie ahead, we have a unique opportunity to begin this process and build on the foundations put in place by this conference'.

26 March 2009