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Many of you will know that I am a trustee of Local Trust, the organisation running the Big Local project. And some of you may also know that I lived in Selby District in North Yorkshire for 19 years and both me and my family worked, shopped and socialised in the town; my parents still do. Up until now, these two parts of my life have been quite unrelated – but earlier this week it was announced that Selby Town has been selected as a Big Local area. And I wanted to share with you why I couldn’t be more pleased with this decision.

Selby is a town with so much to offer
Living in Selby for a number of years, I’ve seen first hand the way that this small and rural market town has been impacted, first by the closure of the Selby shipyard in 1992 and then by the short-lived Selby Coalfield in 2004. And yet the town has so much to offer, with the magnificent Selby Abbey, the potential of the waterfront and the historic market, the park and its bandstand and, most importantly, the warmth and generosity of the people who live there.

The opportunities that Big Local funding will bring really are very exciting. By allocating £1million of Lottery funding to Selby Town, residents will get to identify the issues that they want to address and bring to life the opportunities that they know are there. But better still, they themselves will be able to design community projects to achieve this. Of course, handling such a significant sum will require support and guidance to ensure that funding is used in the best possible way. This will be offered in the shape of training and advice from Local Trust, an organisation created by CDF and a consortium of partners, to deliver Big Local and which has the responsibility for signing off plans for each area.

Big local is about bringing people together
Funded by the Big Lottery FundBig Local is all about bringing together local residents, groups and organisations to share their skills, ambitions and crucially their passion to make their area an even better place to live. But what I find most exciting about Big Local is that it has sought to focus on community projects typically over-looked by external funders. Community projects like those in Selby, where I have seen first hand peoples’ passion and drive to create lasting change in their community.

And that is precisely what Big Local has been designed to achieve: to create lasting change. It’s been celebrated in the National Press as the National Lottery’s largest ever community-led investment. I believe that this is a fantastic indicator of the possibilities and benefits of the community development approach that we have long championed here at CDF, based on much of our own experiences of running successful community projects. My own experience – and how I came to be in this job – was getting involved in the local toddler group in Riccall, a village just north of Selby Town, in the 1990s. Getting involved in this led to setting up the Riccall Regen community centre, an extraordinary project, led by ordinary people.

Sparking community action for the future
So I have every faith that this funding boost from the BIG Lottery Fund, coupled with the expertise and support of Local Trust, will have lasting effects on Selby. And by allowing the people of Selby to have a hands-on approach and a real say in their local priorities, it has the potential to leave a positive experience of community development in the town. Which I hope will enable community action in Selby to flourish long into the future.

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