By getting involved with people who want to discuss common concerns or local issues, we can make a difference to where we live. One way of achieving this is by working together with other people in the neighbourhood via a Community Group.
A Community Group might be set up for the following reasons:
- To campaign for something positive;
- To campaign against something or get services improved;
- To give the community a greater voice;
- To create a better sense of community;
- To keep residents informed of what is happening in the neighbourhood.
During the spring of 2018, and as the number of occupied properties across the development rapidly increased, ‘Bellway at Channels’ residents voiced concerns in relation to fees payable to a property management agent for the upkeep of the estate. Residents did not believe that the quality of service being delivered was commensurate with the level of fees being charged.
The primary area of concern was the poor state of landscaping around the development and it was unclear who was responsible for which areas. The managing agent blamed the developer, the developer blamed the managing agent and there was an added complication of site-wide land maintenance that needed to be considered.
As a result there was a strong desire from a large number of residents to better understand the service that was contracted to be delivered by the managing agent, the way in which the fees were being used and the obligations of key stakeholders such as Bellway Homes, the local Residents Management Company, the site-wide Management Company and the Local Authorities.
Following an initial meeting with the managing agent on 18th May 2018, a number of residents volunteered to liaise with key stakeholders, on behalf of the wider community, to take on the task of bringing the standard of landscaping up to an acceptable level.
In order that a robust audit trail of communication could be kept, so that progress could be effectively monitored and to ensure that a collective voice would be recognised by key stakeholders, the volunteers decided to work together under the banner of a Community Group and in June 2018, the Channels Residents Community Group was born.
Evolution of the Community Group
The Community Group started life simply as a small number of volunteer residents who were working together, initially for the benefit of the Bellway at Channels community, to deal with the specific issue of estate management. Whilst the group was well organised, it was essentially just a regular working group of like-minded people who wanted to improve the neighbourhood without being a formally constituted organisation.
However as a result of additional issues and concerns raised by residents, the group remit expanded during the first six months to cover transport (the 51 bus service), engagement & liaison with Housing Associations and the introduction of a development-wide Neighbourhood Watch.
The Channels Residents Community Group website was also launched in the summer of 2018 as a way of making key information available and this has also been expanded to include regular updates on anything that might impact on the wider community.
The Community Group has also gained support from Parish, City & County Councillors on a number of issues including safe foot passage off of the development, improvement of the 51 bus service (including securing a more appropriate timetable), lobbying for a crossing on Essex Regiment Way and provision of salt for use during the winter months.
The CRCG primarily works with, and on behalf of, private residents and tenants via their housing associations, as identified by the shaded area on the image below (known as “the Area of Benefit”) however this will gradually expand to include everything with the ‘red line’ boundary:
On the basis that the Community Group had achieved so much and added so much value since its inception, a decision was taken during the Summer of 2019 that it should be expanded into a fully-fledged Residents Association with a bank account and a more formalised committee structure.
The website will continue to be updated so that it focuses on building the community across the entire development (rather than just the original Bellway phases) and this will sit alongside new social media groups and forums to assist in enhancing social unity.
The founding members have volunteered many hours of their time in an attempt to make a positive difference for and on behalf of all residents and it is hoped that this community spirit will grow with many more residents becoming involved in group activities, also striving to make a difference to where they live.
Please remember that the group members have volunteered their time and are endeavouring to improve the community for everyone. Be nice to them 🙂