As life in lockdown continues and we are all stuck at home it is no wonder that what is ‘local’ has become incredibly important.
Like other councillors, I have been making phone calls to certain vulnerable residents to make sure that they are ok.
During these conversations certain themes arise such as how grateful we have all been for the wonderful weather, how much we appreciate being in the garden if we have one, how lucky we are to have good family and neighbours, and how important the weekly Thursday clapping has become as a way to say thank you, but also as a time to check on neighbours.
Certain other themes have come out in discussions I have had in calls and emails with residents as well as on Facebook. One is how many of us are prioritising getting outdoors for much needed exercise – and to say hello to friends at the correct social distance.
One parish council in the ward noted that they had seen an increase in people using the public footpaths to explore the countryside. Across Facebook there are photos of our wonderful countryside and if you needed reminding what a beautiful place Bedfordshire is then they will certainly do the job.
Hopefully this appreciation will stick, and for those communities creating neighbourhood plans it will be interesting to see if there is an even greater focus on the importance of green infrastructure.
Another is how important it is to have those who bring a bit of extra sunshine into our lives in our communities. The people who run errands for neighbours and who coordinate activities to keep neighbours entertained and amused and in the loop- both online and off- recognising that as I have said before that those who are not online shouldn’t be excluded.
Importantly, this situation is also demonstrating once again how hard local businesses work to support residents and how important they are as community hubs. The truth is that they are more than just commercial enterprises, these businesses are part of our communities.
Put simply, they are a lifeline for supplies, and to see a friendly face. Many go out of their way to make sure that they can continue to serve their customers and they are operating flexibly in terms of taking payments over the phone, increasing their stock, creating window displays to spread a bit of cheer, doing deliveries.
I know that people are using their local shops more and I hope that supporting local businesses will become a habit that everyone will stick with once this is over – we need local facilities to make communities and I hope it is something that will be taken much more seriously in future planning decisions.
It is easier to have a community when there are places for people to meet and somewhere that can be a hub.
Then there are also the businesses who haven’t been able to remain open. I hope that we extend our habits of buying locally to them as soon we are able to as well – those garden centres, garages, pubs, restaurant, beauty salons, catering businesses across the Borough (to name but a few) need our support.
We must make sure that we fight to save our local village services, but also that we fight to save our town centre which should be at the heart of our larger community. When we can travel again I hope that we will still remember that local is important and to have a good community of people and facilities around us is a blessing.
by Cllr Phillippa Martin-Moran-Bryant
Great Barford Ward (comprising Cardington, Cople, Great Barford, Ravensden, Renhold -including Cranbourne Gardens, Willington and Woodlands Park -part of Brickhill Parish)
Tel: 07934 853 907