Hednesford a Vision for 2022
Working for a confident, supportive and sustainable community.
Enabling a strong, local circular economy with respect for our environment.
In the summer of 2022 the Commonwealth Games are coming to the area as Cannock Chase hosts the Mountain Bike event. By this time the Mill Green (or McArthur Glen West Midlands) Designer Outlet Village will be open and hopefully attracting visitors. We are determined that we create a legacy for visitors and residents alike and use this once in a generation opportunity as a focal point in time to enhance the town through the investments and initiatives the Town Council and Community can lead.
The aim is to create a vibrant place to live, visit and experience building upon the recent regeneration of the Park and nearby shops. Community spirit in the town is strong and growing. A measure of the success of our vision is an increase in the number of people involved in town and community activities as well as the infrastructure projects and investments.
This document sets out a tour of the town and highlights the physical projects we would like to see to enhance the town over the next three years. Some of these will be led by the volunteer groups, some by the Town Council. Some will be funded from money within the town and others from supporting grant requests to bring new money into Hednesford.
Post-industrial towns like ours have a challenge to become strong vibrant centres of the community in the face of a changing High Street, higher expectations for visitors and busier lives for residents. Hednesford has many positive aspects and an emerging vibrancy which needs harnessing around the theme of our rich and varied heritage as well as celebrating our present, and a bright future for the community.
The heritage themes which we celebrate within the community include:
- Extensive mining over the last century
- Military links with local Commonwealth War Graves, German War Cemetery, RAF Hednesford
- Horse Racing as a Grand National winning stables at the turn of the 20th century
- Railway through services to the mining industry, freight and now regular passenger service
- Cycling is emerging as a key part of our heritage with Cannock Chase being a mecca for Mountain Bikers across the country.
We have a number of established places where visitors can experience our community but these are not linked with an awareness, energy and vibrancy which creates the modern identity of Hednesford. A list of key existing locations includes
- Museum of Cannock Chase
- Hednesford Park and War Memorial
- Hednesford Hills SSSI
- Hednesford Hills Raceway
- English Heritage Site – Our Lady of Lourdes church Diocesan Shrine
- RAF Hednesford
- Cannock Chase Mountain Bike Routes
- Heritage Trail
- Cannock Chase Miners Memorial (Davy Lamp and Memory Bricks)
- Commonwealth War Graves, German War Graves and Katyn Memorial
The aim of the work over the next two years is to link these areas and enhance the experience so that visitors feel the experience of this living heritage, the community feel part of the living heritage and a local economy which is stable and thriving; serving the needs of the community and visitors as part of a wider visit to the area.
To help visualise what the town might look like when harnessing the energy and investment let’s take a walk with people in the summer of 2022.
Arriving on the train from Birmingham you are welcomed to the station with the flower baskets and beds established and maintained by the community group. A new welcome sign (1) will be established so visitors know where they have arrived and directions to the Town Centre with a clear railway theme. A walk over the railway bridge with community designed and selected artwork will become a theme across the transport hubs in the town with the repeating and consistent artwork across the bus stops (2)
The station will also benefit from a brand new station building (3) created from the refurbishment of a railway carriage which will include a community shop and facilities. Knowing your way around the area and seeing where key stopping points are will be guided by orientation boards (4) in key strategic locations which give three aspects of town life; the immediate area, the wider area and a community notice board.
From here you will also see the first of a series of wildflower meadows (5) established in areas across the town supported by fruit trees and free-to-access grown fruit and vegetables in community spaces.
Walking into the town, you will find the well maintained and iconic Davy lamp and Miners Memorial area. This is framed with clear evidence of community engagement with the flags down Market Street and strong sustainable businesses giving a buzz of excitement and expectation. The community projects to support the Miners memorial are showcased alongside the ‘St Saviour’s Mission Church’ lectern and reference section within the library. The living, oral history will be brought to life through interactive touch point units (6) around the Miners Memorial. This area is a central point for the community and often hosts community events including the monthly Artisan Market and this will be further enhanced with a community PA and speaker system (7) in the same vein as that established by The Hednesford Centennial Lions at the War Memorial.
Several choices of routes are known, to take you to existing attractions which are currently unappreciated. One journey will take you round to the War Memorial and a newly created stop point of a reconstructed air raid shelter (8) built in to the hill side at the entrance behind the recent WW1 memorial bench.
The route through the area linking to the wider community is the established heritage trail which links through to Cannock in one direction and Rugeley in the other. These have information boards along the route which are being maintained by the community. This route has great potential to be our cycle highway to connect the visitors to our town from other local visitor destinations including the Cannock Chase Mountain Biking and Mill Green Retail Outlet Village. To do this we need the town to establish and develop an approach to be cycle friendly. This requires a cycle infrastructure which gives our community the confidence to cycle and walk whether that is somewhere safe to leave your bicycle, somewhere to hire bicycles for all ages and abilities including e-bikes or way-markers which clearly direct people where to go and how to get there. We want the town and area to having cycling that is recognised as an extension of both leisure and commute of the community
The cycle infrastructure will be evident with obvious and safe places to store cycles (9) for both short duration visits and longer storage for commuting. The route needs to be enhanced with clear way markers (10) and directions to the various visiting points.
The key to a summary of the projects numbered above is given below
- Welcome Sign
- Transport Hub Artwork
- Railway Station Building
- Orientation Boards
- Wildflower Meadows
- Miners Memorial Oral History
- PA System for community events
- Air Raid Shelter
- Cycle Storage
- Cycle way markers
Zero Carbon Future
The core priority for the council is to prepare, support and lead the community towards a zero carbon future. Immediately upon election Councillors recognised the climate emergency and are working through an action plan to make changes in and around our community as well as lead the dialogue with residents about what a Zero Carbon Future looks like, the life choices we all need to make to minimise the impact of the climate crisis and the projects and ideas to develop a more environmentally sensitive community and area.
Some aspects of the vision of the experience of the Town in 2022 are less tangible in the things built and described earlier. These centre around how the community groups work together towards common objectives. How these groups recruit and retain volunteers and the positive contribution these resident feel they are contributing to the community.
A town centre will always be recognised as the heartbeat of the community and this needs to be reflected in the appearance and maintenance of the town. The area should be pleasant and inviting, well maintained and have a fresh energy around the town where there is an obvious and visible pride in the appearance of the town.
The third aspect of these non-tangible aspects of town life is an economic hub which is focused on local goods and services provided by owner/proprietor businesses. Our town has 17,400 residents and sufficient purchasing power to support a mix of town centre businesses if the offering reflects modern retail challenges and is reflective of the needs of the community. Part of the challenge is moving people from a single visit to one of the supermarkets on the edge of the town centre, to the town centre itself along Market Street. Our night time economy is very buoyant and we need to bring this energy throughout the day.
Feeling the common community thread through the town linked through assets in common community ownership from the library to the community buildings; from a community shop to open spaces. Important spaces to bring people together to bring a just transition to a carbon free future is a central theme of the work of the Town Council in particular leading community engagement with the options and choices ahead of us.
Hednesford Town Council is currently funded principally from the precept (small part of your council tax) collected from the households in the Parish Boundary to fund the existence of the Council and services, projects, events and investments which serve the community of Hednesford. The current level of precept covers the cost of running the council, subsidises the operation of Pye Green Community Centre and then deliver some fixed services currently limited to the provision of CCTV (contribution to Cannock Chase District Council), a grant to the Citizen’s Advice and funding the Christmas Lights and Summer Festival events. Beyond this there is some limited budget for grants and awards across the community.