Community groups come together to look at opportunities in Exeter's parks and open spaces
27th February 2014
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Around 100 people attended last night's forum at the Corn Exchange to discuss opportunities for future community management or ownership of Exeter's parks, play areas, outdoor sports facilities and informal open spaces.

The meeting was called by Exeter City Council, which is facing a 13.6% reduction in government funding in 2014/15 and further cuts in future years.

Cllr Rachel Sutton, Deputy Leader, said: "It's great to see such a good turnout of people from a wide spectrum of community groups and organisations across the city."

It is hoped that the initiative will drive forward exciting new opportunities with communities for enduring partnerships that engage local people, create income, build resources, create skills, develop enterprise and enhance heritage and wellbeing.

"We're doing everything possible to protect key frontline services in the face of ever decreasing government funding. In the next four years we face a 44% reduction in government grant. That's why we need to think smart and work with local groups in order to maintain the green lungs of the city which are so well loved and used," said Cllr Sutton.

Among the items discussed last night were access to funding, help with insurance, and help with building new community groups.

Many of the community groups attending said they were grateful for the opportunity to be involved and that they wanted to be able to join together to find the strength in numbers to come up with some realistic ideas.

Owain Hadden from Parklife Heavitree, said: "One of the good things about tonight is that we are able to join together and talk with other groups who are in the same position as us. We know that we're not alone."

The event was covered extensively on Twitter, with the City Council’s twitter account @exetercouncil provided running commentary. Attendees and those not able to come joined in the discussion using the hashtag #openEX.

Exeter St James Forum (@ExeterStJames) tweeted “@ExeterCouncil looking forward to being in touch with other people and groups #openEX”, and Rob Bosworth (@RobertBosworth) tweeted “@ExeterCouncil well done on excellent twitter coverage felt like I was there! Sounded like a pragmatic discussion.”

Cllr Paul Bull, Member Champion for Community Engagement, said: "It's great to take these first steps and we know they are going to go in all directions. Some will come up against a brick wall but others will have an open vista. It's the first phase of a long journey but we do have two years to get there."

The meeting is the first step in a lengthy process to see how community groups can get more involved. The next steps are for officers to take away the feedback which will then be presented to councillors for consideration.

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Dave B

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