The idea for the Exeter St James Forum emerged during an Annual General Meeting of the Prospect Park Residents’ Association in September 2010.
A number of individual issues of concern to the street residents were discussed. One of the residents attending the meeting, who happens to be a community and urban regeneration specialist involved in projects around the country, observed that, realistically, the most effective way of bringing about desirable change in a community is to form a larger constituency than a single street based Resident’s Association. He suggested that we might consider joining forces with other Residents’ Associations, emcompassing the entire St James ward.
The meeting agreed that this was an interesting idea to explore. The chair of the Prospect Park Residents’ Association approached other residents associations’ in St James who were interested enough to participate in a series of informal discussion sessions held at St David’s Church Community Room.
During these sessions the notion arose of the need, perhaps, for a vision of the future development of the St James Community. Many of those attending these early discussions already belonged to groups responding to individual issues as they arise and these efforts have certainly borne fruits in solving/reducing immediate concerns. But the idea that emerged in these early discussions was one of a vision of how we might help to shape St. James as in future years.
This in turn led to the notion of a neighbourhood plan to bring the vision into reality. The plan is to act as a point of reference when higher level decisions are being made, putting the people who live in the community in the driving seat of the directions chosen to foster the development of the ward as a thriving community.