THRIVING AND VIBRANT COMMUNITIES
A lived in, sustainable, thriving and innovative Peak District that engages both local and neighbouring communities, and promotes a high quality of life by conserving and enhancing the special qualities of the national park.
People are an integral part of the national park and have lived and worked in the Peak District landscape for thousands of years. They continue to play a major role in securing national park purposes. Continuing to foster viable and healthy communities is essential to the vibrancy of living in the national park. Community life is closely tied up with working life and the vitality of communities also relies on availability and access to jobs and places of work. These aspects are covered in the aims of the Enterprising and Sustainable Economy theme.
The park is in a unique position, at the heart of the nation surrounded by major urban areas. The resident population remains at around 38,000, living in Bakewell and more than 140 villages and hamlets. Surveys show that residents have a strong connection with their local environment and landscape, and high levels of community activity and awareness around Peak District cultural traditions reflect this. Some of the challenges for people living within the national park are to maintain balanced and vibrant communities when faced with high house prices, low wages, an aging population, restricted job opportunities and inconsistent access to services. A high priority for most resident communities is the provision of affordable local needs housing.
Communities need access to a range of essential services, such as schools, shops, places to meet and health services. Social and community links, such as local markets, recreation spaces and workplaces extend beyond the national park, linking communities inside and outside its boundaries. Indeed, for many communities, day to day living is not affected by the national park boundary. This is of particular importance to sustainable access to services and job opportunities. These services often serve wider areas and are essential for communities to be vibrant and thriving. However, many communities find it difficult to retain these services and facilities.
Access to services, work and leisure in a rural area is important to sustaining village life. There are some good public transport services in the park but access to deeper rural areas is more difficult without a car. Building on the commercial aspects of public transport network with other approaches, whilst being realistic about the role of the car, is the challenge.
Public and voluntary sectors, and local rural enterprises, need to continue to work together to achieve the best use of limited public funding resources and offer communities a combination of skills and expertise to help them to achieve their aspirations. There is a long history of ‘bottom-up’ community planning initiatives in the national park, with a focus in particular on building the capacity of local communities to shape local affairs. Views of communities on the need for services and facilities, and action taken by communities working directly with other stakeholders, has led to improvements to buildings, affordable housing, and the restoration of historic or natural features. The 2011 Localism Act encourages greater community engagement and participation in the decision making processes which affect people’s lives.