Doubt over future of forum

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MEMBERS of an influential town body have urged regeneration chiefs to think twice before axeing a community forum.

The Throston Community Forum was set up in September 2009 as part of efforts to tackle issues around health, employment, deprivation and disability.

It was created to help local people get involved in Throston’s Neighbourhood Action Plan (NAP).

After struggling to get enough people on board, Hartlepool Borough Council’s Regeneration and Neighbourhood wing is proposing to axe the forum.

But members of Hartlepool Partnership, made up of representatives from a host of agencies and organisations, have urged the regeneration team to do everything they can to reach out to people who could take the community forum forward.

Hartlepool Labour group leader Councillor Chris Simmons said: “It’s a large area of the town and its got a large new housing development attached to it as well, and I don’t like to think we are giving the impression that we are abandoning them.

“If we can breathe new line into this particular NAP I would like to do that.”

Councillor Ged Hall, chair of the health and well-being group, added: “I think we’ve got to be doing everything we can to target these areas of deprivation and ensure we do engage with residents.”

Tracy Rowe, of Hartlepool Council, said: “Historically it has been difficult to engage residents from the Throston area.

“Unlike other NAP-orientated community groups in Hartlepool, there has been no core collection of regular attendees around which the future of the forum could be built.

“While there have been a number of successful projects and schemes commissioned in Throston over the past two years it must be recognised that this has been an uphill struggle with regards to the involvement of residents in the process.”

Funding available to the NAP through the Working Neighbourhoods Fund has also been lost.

It is proposed to axe the forum but for council officers to continue to work on the key aims of the NAP.

It is also suggested to include Throston within another NAP forum in the north of town.

Throston was included as a priority area in Hartlepool’s Neighbourhood Renewal area because it was in the bottom 10 per cent nationally for employment, health, deprivation and disability.

The Hartlepool Partnership board postponed deciding whether or not to endorse the proposals until their next board meeting in July.

At that meeting, the council’s regeneration department will provide details of how it has tried to save the community forum.