The 'Big Society' working in Hebden Bridge

Ben Metz of the Waterways Project @ Civa – reports:

Last weekend the Waterways Project visited Hebden Bridge on the Rochdale Canal – the site of second local mapping project.

The weekend proved to be a great opportunity to meet a range of people actively involved in a range of sustainability projects both on and off the waterway.

The Rochdale Canal

The canal was restored during the 1990s by the Rochdale Canal Trust – a partnership between Calderdale, Rochdale and Oldham District Councils. Since completion of restoration the day to day management of the canal has been undertaken by British Waterways.

Local Projects

Hebden Bridge and the surrounding area are vibrant communities with a range of active community projects and social enterprises.

Calderdale Boat Club manages three long term moorings on behalf of British Waterways (Callis, Stooley Bridge and Rawden). At Callis there is also a community garden adjacent to the canal.

At Mayroyd, residents of a stretch of private moorings have come together to set up a non profiit company to lease and manage the moorings – including proposals for a boat-based bed and breakfast.

Across from Mayroyd is a site that has in the past been considered for a marina development is currently one of the sites under consideration for development by the town’s self-build project.

In the town centre is a boat hire business and dry dock and there is a boat builders on the canal on the way to Todmorden.

There are range of community garden, allotment and food growing projects in and around Hebden, including Redacre – aiming to set up a food growing socail enterprise on Calderdale DC / British Waterways land in Mytholmroyd. Perhaps the most celebrated food gropwing project is Incredible Edible Todmorden which has seen edible food being grown in a range of public spaces in the town – including alongside the towpath.

A local boater has well developed plans to set up a family of community interest companies with the capacity to create up to 50 jobs on the Hebden Canal in a range of sectors including housing, education and training and leisure.

A self build group (including a number of boat dwellers) has recently been set up in response to the lack of affordable housing in the area. The group are undertaking a community asset mapping exercise and The Waterways Project will be sharing data with the group.

Alongside the canal near the centre of the town sits the Alternative Technology Centre which runs a range of projects including Power In the Landscape which is providing assistance to the development of small scale hydro power projects throughout the local area. The Centre is a social enterprise housing a range of activities within the old mill building including a bike recycling and repair project and a range of educational activities for school children.

In additon to the existing or planned projects a range of ideas are also under consideration including the development of a water based woodmill – accessing the steep wooded valley sides from the canal to provide woodland management services.

Community Assets

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the visit to Hebden was the extent to which community asset ownership is already well under way or under consideration. The Town Hall has recently been transferred to community ownership with a range of other assets under consideration – including the theatre and park, both of which ajoin the canal.

This, alongside the range of existing activity, appears to provide a potential basis for a joined up approach to canal-based social enterprise and asset development in the town and surrounding area. The Waterways Project will be exploring this potential over the coming months.

via Hebden Bridge – Meetings and Mapping » Waterways-Civa.org.uk.

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