Independent Report Supports Past Community Consultations to Help Shape £17.5M Town Investment Plan

An independent report has confirmed that the contributions of Todmorden communities to numerous consultations in Todmorden over the past fifteen years, were a relevant and sound base from which many of the priorities and themes for the current £17.5M Town Investment Plan (TIP) could be identified by Todmorden Town Deal Board.

The report by internationally renowned academic, Dr. Andrew P. Carlin, based at the School of Education, Ulster University, found that Todmorden Town Deal Board got it right when they turned to the outcomes of consultations from 2004 to 2019 for the development of the TIP, as well as taking into account the specific government criteria, and local and national strategies, that they also had to satisfy.

The TIP was successfully awarded £17.5M investment in July last year.

The report finds the past consultations to be: excellent examples of urban potential, of future planning, of stakeholder sampling, and of community engagement“, – singling out Todmorden Council’s 2013 Town Plan for Todmorden’ as being especially significant and representative of local voices: the report to read.’

Taking the consultations as a whole set, Dr Carlin goes on to show that Todmorden people have over the years been highly consistent in their priorities for the development of their town.

An important observation from reading the historical consultations as a set, rather than as isolated reports, is that when Todmorden residents have been asked for their suggestions they have been remarkably consistent.”

The report demonstrates that key themes recur time and again when people have been asked what they want for the town. The report recommends that such consistency from community voices over a significant length of time should be taken seriously in developing any future plans for Todmorden.

Improving the local economy underpins the development that people want to see:

The historical consultations highlight themes of significant interest for the development of Todmorden. Many of these themes are present in each report. All of the reports look forward to development that can improve the local economy. While this is worded in different terms it is ever present and operative.’”

Other themes put forward by Todmorden residents emerge as a reiteration of familiar suggestions that appear consistently across the past consultations.

These include transport, with bus/rail, cycling and car picked out as priorities, space and land use, namely, car parks and derelict/unsightly areas, public space, especially having a more attractive town centre to spend time in, and sustainability and the environment. Housing that is affordable and accessible, improving existing leisure facilities and creating new ones are also consistent themes, and the economy, in particular employment opportunities as well as the indoor and outdoor markets and tourism.

And yet, as Dr Carlin’s report identifies, despite the significant contribution of time, vision and effort of Todmorden people taking part in these consultations from 2004 – 2019, this led to little or no investment for Todmorden. Dr Carlin points to one comment highlighting the potential disappointment of ‘yet further inaction.’ (A Feasibility Report on the Future of Todmorden Markets, 2014)

However, as the report confirms, this contribution of community ambitions, perspectives and priorities was a vital foundation to help shape the bid for up to £25M from the then Stronger Towns Fund in 2019.

Pam Warhurst, Chair, Todmorden Town Deal Board said:

“The process of putting together a bid at this level and in ludicrous timescales allowed no time or scope for new consultations for the Town Investment Plan. Add to that a newly assembled Town Deal Board of skilled volunteers leading on this, and you have to use the evidence available. Fortunately for us, and for Todmorden, there were plenty of consultations to draw from.

“These were consultations that people had in good faith contributed to with little or no Town improvements to reward their visions. The Town Investment Plan largely reflects these ambitions, as well as criteria set by government, and ensures projects will be delivered sustainably, inclusively and with young people at its centre.”

As part of his report, Dr Carlin compares the current Town Investment Plan for evidence that the Town Deal Board took forward this consistency of public opinion in shaping the bid.

His conclusion is welcome news for Todmorden and the Board, finding that what people had said in the 2004 – 2019  consultations were ‘valuable accounts for future work’, and, crucially, that the Town Investment Plan, the framework for the future development of Todmorden up to 2025, largely reflects those views.

Dr. Carlin states in the conclusion section of his report:

The priorities of the Town Investment Plan are co-extensive with the priorities of previous consultation exercises.”

Pam Warhurst added:

I’m pleased the recent report acknowledges the vision and hard work Todmorden folk put into previous consultations, but the conversation doesn’t, of course, end there.

“There will be opportunities coming up for people to comment and have their say on the projects once plans and drawings are ready.

“We know we can’t please everyone all of the time but it’s an exciting time for our town and I hope people will get behind the board and support us as we take things forward.

Report author, Dr Andrew Carlin, School of Education, Ulster University said:

In my view, this was a necessary assessment to undertake as part of reviewing the basis on which current and future work is developed in Todmorden. Any consultation gathering the views of local people about priorities for their environment and neighbourhoods, is valuable.

However, joining up the threads of many such exercises, evidencing if and how various outcomes add up to a consistent, coherent and meaningful set of opinions over time, transforms the value and credibility of those insights and knowledge.

I commend Todmorden Town Deal Board for their openness in prioritising and sharing this learning and within the process. I believe it brings a greater clarity, and I wish the town every success in its future development.

In addition, the new report picks up on the drive and energy that characterises Todmorden communities and for which the town is known:

“One is struck by the relentless optimism and positivity of the local population…The historic consultations, as a cumulative exercise, are filled with potential and the drive to look forwards to a future that holds opportunities for all generations.’”

Todmorden: Consultations 2004 – 2019, Review, Findings and Conclusions was commissioned by Todmorden Town Deal Board, April 2022.