Breckland Council: Future Breckland - Thriving People and Places

Breckland Council has launched a year long project, Future Breckland: Thriving People and Places. This project is a significant undertaking which is designed to help Breckland bounce back from the challenges of COVID-19. Through carrying out substantial conversations with local businesses and key stakeholders, the project will create an overarching vision for the council and help secure external funding. Moving forward, it is expected that this will help build a strong and sustainable economy for the future.

The challenge

Breckland district is one of the largest in the country with a diversity of natural and physical assets, spanning five market towns and over 100 villages. The district has formidable natural assets and nationally significant representation in the food and manufacturing sector. But it also faces significant challenges: social mobility, infrastructure, skills, and investment; and its size creates its own challenges. Spanning multiple travel to work and housing market areas; with five Town Councils, 113 Civil Parishes Councils, a LEP, a county and two parliamentary constituencies, a single consensus on priorities does not exist organically. It is in this context that the Future Breckland project was developed. The vision for the work is to step off the treadmill of chasing funding rounds and build a sustainable long-term investment plan constructed around the unique needs of its local places and people.

The solution

Future Breckland: Thriving People and Places began in March 2021 by procuring economic specialists Hatch, along with urbanists We Made That.

The programme is expected to run for around a year and is intended to provide a robust evidence base and will see the creation of an overarching vision for the district, with specific plans for each of the five towns, and identified priorities which tackle challenges while capitalising on the district's strengths. This work should put Breckland in pole position to leverage new external funding, whilst also using its shared resources better to deliver transformational change across the district.

This programme of work is intended to guide and secure resource through instruments like levelling up and community renewal, but also innovative local investment models and private sector contributions. Through this, the council hopes to create a legitimate line-of-sight on the pipeline figures it is building.

To facilitate this, the intention is to start a conversation with up to 140,000 residents and 6,000 businesses – plus the whole breadth of stakeholders and influencers – in a year-long dialogue about what matters most. The programme asks what the future could and should look like, and collectively defining the key steps that everyone needs to take to get there, complemented by blending the best external insight from economists to architects and spatial planners and providing the space for all views to be heard.

The impact

Given its scale, the expectations of the work are substantial. Over the next 12 months this work is expected to deliver for the council:

  • a new vision, turned into tangible delivery and investment plans, which are constructed at town level and set out the blueprint for the future of the district
  • a consensus built from thousands of voices, which will have the power to co-invest and deliver this new ambitious agenda for positive change
  • an identified and costed circa 10-year development programme, expected to be worth around £750m of capital projects
  • the strength and commitment of partnership to bring forward, co-invest, and co-deliver for the future.

Cllr Paul Claussen, Breckland Council’s Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder responsible for the programme said: “By creating a shared vision, local organisations can align their priorities and ensure they are all pulling towards the same goal. This will ensure Breckland’s success going forward and put us in pole position when it comes to bidding for national funding, which can be spent making the district even better for our residents and businesses.”

Maxine O’Mahony, Executive Director and Head of Paid Services at Breckland Council said: “We are truly excited about the potential of the Future Breckland project. We believe this won’t just be a roadmap for the success of our people and places, but it could be a blueprint for how Market Towns, and urban/rural economies, feature in future of the UK growth story. We know that no one body has the power, resource, or influence to make the kind of changes we need to see – which is why building a strong consensus, around a compelling shared vision for the future has to be the future for public sector leaders”.

How is the new approach being sustained?

It is anticipated that beyond the 12 months, the project will unlock significant new activity which will help tackle local skills and employment, regeneration, housing, connectivity, public realm challenges – and create the conditions for sustainable inclusive growth. As the programme has progressed, the benefits of working in partnership with public and private stakeholders has become increasingly valuable and will be a key process in achieving the interventions identified to achieve its vision.

Lessons learned

Through the programme to date, the council has learnt that the most successful market towns of the future will be proactive and have a relentless focus on meeting the needs of current and future generations. This includes evolving the local offer in response to the trends associated with COVID-19, but also ensuring that it adapts to wider shifts relating to the future of the high street and local economies. Future Breckland aims to set out key interventions that will help enable its market towns to adapt and thrive to support local need.