Polish to meet ACRE on rural mission
by Claire McGine, Head of Communications

A 20-strong Polish delegation arrives in Cirencester on Wednesday (November 20) to find out how residents work together to plan the future of communities in rural England.

The group, which includes village mayors, local government officers and community workers, has asked to meet the team of rural experts at ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England).

ACRE, the umbrella body for England’s 38 rural community councils, will explain how its Network helps communities to make things happen locally – from setting up youth projects to building affordable homes.

“The ACRE Network of rural community councils has a wealth of experience in helping rural communities come up with innovative solutions to the challenges they face and we’re hoping the Polish delegation will be inspired by their day with us.”

The day will be led by ACRE’s Director of Policy & Research Nick Chase, supported by South Oxfordshire & Vale of White Horse District Councils Corporate Services Officer Anne Richardson, Oxfordshire Rural Community Council Community Development Worker Anton Nath and Oxfordshire parish councillor Jasminder Love.

Nick Chase said: “The Polish visitors are especially keen to learn about Community-Led Plans, which have so far been drawn up by more than 4,000 towns and villages across England.

“A Plan is put together by the community for the community – setting out their vision for their neighbourhood for the next five to ten years. It is an ideal opportunity for people to take responsibility for making things happen locally, rather than waiting on others to do it for them.

“We’ll be explaining how rural community councils and local authorities work with their communities to try to help them put their ideas into action.

“This type of engagement at grass-roots level is difficult in Poland because there is no equivalent of our parish councils. That makes it hard for communities to have a voice at a very local level. The delegates are therefore hoping to take away some ideas to try out at home.

“The ACRE Network of rural community councils has a wealth of experience in helping rural communities come up with innovative solutions to the challenges they face and we’re hoping the Polish delegation will be inspired by their day with us.”

As well as Community-Led Planning, the Polish will learn about the new rights and powers communities have gained under the Localism Act, and the Neighbourhood Planning process

The visit to Cirencester is part of a three-day whistle-stop tour which includes visits to local authorities in Lambeth, London, and Richmond, North Yorkshire.

Edyta Staniszewska-Strasz of Poland’s Co-operation Fund Foundation, which organised the visit, said: “ACRE’s work with communities is considered to be an example of good practice and we’re hoping to learn more about activities which will help us to successfully include our citizens in the decision-making process.”