New driving force behind Big Local plan

Rev Alan Dickinson is the new chairman of Whitley Bay Big Local.
Rev Alan Dickinson is the new chairman of Whitley Bay Big Local.

A well-known vicar has taken over as volunteer chairman of Whitley Bay Big Local.

Rev Alan Dickinson, who is involved in The Bay Food Bank project and helped set up the charitable organisation Street Pastors, has taken on the role.

Alan, who was previously a board member of the Big Lottery-funded community project will now help to steer the project forward as it enters its fifth year.

He is hoping to build on the outstanding work of the community partnership which was set up to encourage residents and those involved in the Big Local area to make it a better place to live, work and visit with £1million investment over a 10-year period.

Alan brings with him an in-depth understanding of both the challenges and huge opportunities that the area faces and is hoping that his involvement will help to drive forward plans that will have a lasting legacy on the Big Local community and the wider town.

Since its inception, the volunteer partnership has played an key role within the town; working in partnership with residents, community groups and statutory partners, Whitley Bay Big Local has introduced and provided support to a diverse range of projects which have helped to build the area’s growing sense of community.

As well as helping to improve the physical look and feel of the town, Whitley Bay Big Local has helped to bring back the much-loved town carnival, supported the work of existing community groups and local residents, and introduced much needed external services such as a dedicated credit union to enable people to take control of their finances and access ethical lending.

As the project approaches its halfway point, Alan will be working with the board of volunteers to examine opportunities which will have a lasting legacy on the town.

He said: “Over the past four years, Whitley Bay Big Local has helped to facilitate a real community driven effort; supporting existing community members and encouraging others to get involved and make a difference to the place in which they live and work.

“Recently we became a CIO – a charitable incorporated organisation – which alongside many other benefits, will allow us access to additional funding channels to support our future plans which gives us far greater scope.”

Whitley Bay Big Local has commissioned a feasibility study in to the provision of affordable housing and community space in the town and is looking for local people to share their thoughts and opinions. Whilst this is still very much in its infancy, it demonstrates the ambitions and potential impact of the project.

Alan added: “I’ve accepted the role as chairman because I really believe in the community-driven nature of the project and know that to bring about any lasting changes requires the support and efforts of local people.”