A PROBLEM shared is a problem halved, the saying goes, and in Elgin the local area forums serving the town hope a joint survey will show that working together can benefit communities.
Elgin North Area Forum and its counterpart for Elgin South joined forces to undertake a community survey last summer.
What started out as an attempt by Elgin North to boost awareness of the forum, has mushroomed into a community-wide examination of key issues affecting the town.
Elgin South came on board to help engage local people and the result is a comprehensive analysis of important local issues.
However, as opposed to just lying on a shelf gathering dust, the survey findings were taken by the forums to local agenices, who provided responses to a series of questions.
With admin support from Michelle Gillibrand, Elgin North chair Sheila Hollis and Elgin South chair Aileen Marshall, have compiled a detailed report of those responses.
They will present their findings at a series of public events in Elgin later this month.
Mrs Hollis and Mrs Marshall hope the exercise will promote the role of the forums more widely in Elgin and encourage more people to join them.
A total of 64 people were interviewed by the forums at Elgin Library and Elgin Farmers’ Market, and although not a scientific survey, it is designed to reflect some of the views held locally.
The issues raised by people include the lack of vibrancy in Elgin town centre, transport and parking issues, anti-social behaviour including dog fouling and litter, health issues, flooding, youth employment and the lack of activities for under-fives and young people.
The forums have then gone to a series of community partners, including Elgin Business Improvement District, Moray Council and NHS Grampian to gain some answers and explanations.
The community views will be revealed in full at three events in the town, all from 10am to 5pm.
•Monday, January 28 – Elgin Library.
•Wednesday, January 30 – Asda.
•Thursday, January 31 – Tesco.
•Friday, February 1 – Moray Leisure Centre.
The findings include a series of measures that have already been taken and future projects to try and regenerate the centre of Elgin, many of which are within the Elgin City for the Future strategy document.
Some of those include the creation of a castle-cathedral-cashmere heritage trail, the removal of vegetation from town centre buildings, and £58,000 available to local businesses to improve shop frontages.
A safer streets partnership group, in tandem with police efforts, is tackling under-age drinking.
The Strategic Partnership for Improving the City of Elgin (SPICE), a multi-agency group, is also working on strategies to reduce litter in the long-term.
Mrs Hollis hopes the survey will show people that the forums are serious when it comes to following up issues raised by people.
“The initial object of the exercise was to get more members for the forums. Some of the concerns that were put forward to us we put to relevant agencies and we got some really good feedback.
“We have got to be seen to be taking things on board and that is why we are putting back to the community all the comments we have had which show that things are being followed up,” she added.
Launched in 2006 as part of the community planning process, the Elgin forums are among six actively operating in Moray (Milne’s, Buckie, Forres and Speyside are the others).
When membership dipped a couple of years ago in Elgin, local consultant Michelle Gillibrand was brought in by the forums to provide admin support.
“The forums are a voice for the community,” said Mrs Marshall, “and we have a strong partnership with community councils.”
Elgin South was particularly active in lobbying, along with others in the community, for a new Elgin High School, and a £21 million school has now been given the go-ahead.
Mrs Marshall said the survey had evolved into a bigger project and she paid tribute to the agencies for the way they had responded to issues raised.
Mrs Hollis believes the forums have gained enhanced credibility among community planning partners over the last 18 months, but there is still a need to involve more members of the community.
Over next few months ‘The Scot’ will focus on some of the issues raised in the forums’ community survey in a bid to engage more people in discussion locally.
•Elgin North Area Forum meets on the first Tuesday of every month at 7pm in Elgin Academy and meetings are open to the public.
Elgin South meets on the third Tuesday of every month in the NEON annexe at New Elgin Primary School, also at 7pm.
More information on the work and initiatives of the forums is available by telephoning 07570 327 870.