The £25 million Stocksbridge Towns Fund Bid will be submitted early next year bringing new government investment in the town. However ahead of this, a consultation exercise has taken place and Don Valley Railway appears of one the big asks from the folk of Stocksbridge.
The Towns Fund public consultation took place between 26th October and 15th November 2020 to help identify what are the main priorities for the town.
Local transport; digital connectivity; regeneration, planning and land use (with building new homes split out from this category); arts, sport and leisure; enhancing parks, green spaces and the environment; improved skills and education provision; and supporting business and enterprise were all identified in the Towns Fund for investment.
Within each of these areas, people were asked what is most important to them. In Transport people were asked about public transport, cycling, footpaths, electric charging stations and Don Valley Railway of course.
In total, 573 responses equal to 3% of Stocksbridge’s population were received giving a good representative split covering all ages, sexes and other demographics.
The results showed that highest proportion of respondents was that the Plan should ‘benefit all local people’, identified as very important by 90% of the total. Environmental and sustainablility (84%); community control of local assets and related decision-making (78%); and creating high-paid, high-skilled jobs for local people (72%) also scored.
Respondents were asked about the types of investment that they thought were important to the future growth and success of Stocksbridge (figure 12). The questions were designed to align with the Towns Fund intervention framework, to provide the Board with information on how local priorities correspond to the areas which are eligible for Towns Fund expenditure.
Two slight changes were made to the descriptions used in the Towns Fund guidance: the guidance intervention area of ‘urban regeneration, land use and planning’ was split into ‘regenerating parts of the town’ and ‘building new homes’ to make the description more meaningful to local people and to pick up differences of opinion between these two elements within the Towns Fund intervention area. The ‘arts, culture and heritage’ theme was also split into ‘arts, sports and leisure facilities’ and ‘enhancing parks, green spaces and the environment’, as it was felt that the ‘arts, culture and heritage’ label did not fully articulate the range of interventions possible within this theme.
With the exception of ‘building new homes’, over 80% of respondents felt that each of the intervention themes was ‘very important’ to the future growth and success of Stocksbridge. The highest priority was given to ‘regenerating parts of the town’, identified as very important by 91% of respondents. This was closely followed by ‘improved skills and education provision’ and ‘arts, sports and leisure facilities’, both identified as very important by 87% of respondents, and ‘local transport’, identified as very important by 86%.
Opening the railway was the top priority within local transport network at (82%), followed by ‘Public transport links to other places’ (75%). 121 respondents identified ‘other’ wide-ranging priorities for improving local transport in Stocksbridge. These included better off-road parking, night buses, improved footpaths and bridleways, a community-led transport system of mini buses, and ensuring the new train line extended to Fox Valley, a night buses to Sheffield, and better bus shelters.