PLANED is a community-led development organisation aiming to improve quality of life for rural communities in the county of Pembrokeshire, in south-west Wales.
PLANED’s predecessor body, TCRI (Taf and Cleddau Rural Initiative) was set up in 1987, following the success of a local campaign to save a 19th century house in the small market town of Narberth and convert it into what is now a thriving community centre. In 1991, it evolved into SPARC (South Pembrokeshire Action for Rural Communities), with an expanded area, and SPARC became and remained an Action Group within the LEADER initiative of the European Union. In 2001, SPARC evolved into PLANED, with its area further expanded to cover the whole of the County. PLANED has acted as a LEADER group within the more recent phases of that initiative.
Throughout, the focus has been on helping communities to take their future well-being into their own hands. PLANED is committed to a fully integrated and sustainable approach to rural development.
PLANED’s activities may be described under two broad headings:
Community engagement and support
Summary – Since 1987, PLANED and its predecessors have created and evolved a special way of engaging communities and building partnerships for local development. Each community is encouraged and helped to establish a Community Forum, open to all local organisations and individuals. The Community Forum identifies local needs, opportunities, and priorities, which are set out in an integrated Community Action Plan. This Plan is then implemented by the Forum, using its own energy and resources, supported by funds and expertise from outside the community which PLANED helps to secure.
Thematic programmes and networks
PLANED’s second main type of activity lies in identifying and articulating themes which can act as the focus for development activity in many communities. Specific themes – such as agriculture, energy or military history – appeal to different groups and to different funding bodies. They cut across local geographic boundaries, and offer potential for cooperation and exchange of ideas between different communities, and between different regions and countries. This potential is pursued through the creation of formal or informal networks.
PLANED offers a remarkable example of integrated community-led local development. Its structure of partnership and participative democracy at two geographic levels – the county, and the community – is unique in the United Kingdom and rare in Europe. It places a strong and very practical emphasis on integrated development and on sustainability. Its bottom-up commitment, with full ownership of developmental action by each local community, provides significant assurance that projects are well-founded and likely to survive. The continuity of the effort, over 30 years, matches the reality that local development is a long-term process, benefitting from an ongoing process of research and evaluation to ensure that methodologies are refined as communities develop confidence and capacity.