A MEETING was held in the Community Hall of ARCHES House last week to help ARCHES determine the way forward for their community work for the next five years.
ARCHES is well known as a successful community development group and part of that success is due to the fact that they constantly endeavour to base their work on the needs and wants of the local community.
To this end they carry out a major public consultation every five years and on the findings of this consultation they formulate their strategy for the coming years.
Part of this process involves looking back on what has been achieved and this year a comprehensive Overview - 'ARCHES - Working for Randalstown' - has been produced and delivered to all households in the town and surrounding district.
Linda Houston, secretary of ARCHES, said: "Since its formation in 1995, ARCHES has secured around 2,500,000 of funding for services and projects to benefit people in the Randalstown area.
"This has been spent on a number of major schemes like the Viaduct Path, ARCHES House and Mews and Moore's Lane as well as many smaller projects like the annual Festival and Youth Development.
"These projects were identified in our original Strategy Document and two subsequent strategy reviews carried out in consultation with a cross-section of the local community."
Representatives of local groups and organisations met in ARCHES House on Monday evening to discuss and suggest what was needed and would most benefit the community in the coming five years.
George Graham, chairman of ARCHES, commented: "ARCHES exists to serve the community and in order to do that successfully we need to know what people need and want. That is the reason for this meeting and the findings of this consultation will determine the future direction of our work.
"In order to make our consultation as wide as possible we have included a questionnaire in our Overview document which has gone out to 3000+ homes. We are asking all local residents to complete this and return it to our office so that as many ideas and opinions as possible can be included in our strategy for the next five years."
"Anyone not having access to the Overview and questionnaire can obtain a copy from ARCHES office in ARCHES House, 38-40 Main Street, telephone 94478471, email firstname.lastname@example.org The questionnaire is also on ARCHES website - www.randalstownarches.com and can be completed online. Please forward all completed questionnaires to ARCHES by the end of April to ensure that your suggestions are included in the final report which will be available later in the year.
Celebrating 14 years making Randalstown a better place
ARCHES (Assisting Randalstown Community towards, Harmony, Empowerment and Success) was formed in 1995 and is completely cross-community.
Its early work was informed by a strategy that had been developed after consultation with the local community.
Since then the strategy has been reviewed on numerous occasions and now it's time to look again at where we're going and to set some new priorities.
But before we look forward it can be useful to take a look back at the journey we've already taken and to remind ourselves of what has been achieved
1995-97: In its first three years ARCHES developed its strategy and started putting some basic structures and services in place. Community Development Officer, Hazel Cameron, was appointed and the community newsletter, Arches Outlook, was launched. Notable events and achievements during that time were the designation of Randalstown as a conservation area and the illumination of the viaduct. Applications were invited to the first round of EU Peace and Reconciliation funding and ARCHES lost no time in submitting major bids, all of which were successful, a unique achievement among community groups in the Province.
1998-2001: These were years of intense activity delivering projects funded by Peace and Reconciliation and many other grant providers. Closing the Gap (1998) 206,000 - Environmental improvements to town centre gap site at Moore's Lane; Bridging the Divide (1998) 196,000 - Reinstatement of railway bridge and creation of footpath along former railway line; Lower Main Street (1999) 60,000 - Riverbank environmental improvements; ARCHES House and ARCHES Lane (2001) 600,000 - community Hall, office and boardroom, residential and business units, holiday flats; Community Education and Training (2001) - Funding of 48,300 over three years from New Opportunities Fund; Launch of Townscape Initiative (2001) - Aim to improve properties within the designated conservation area.
2002-2005: While some work continued on environmental improvements, including the construction of ARCHES Mews, the main focus for these years was consolidation and projects aimed at improving people's lives through a range of training, education and community work provision.
ARCHES also worked with partners to facilitate the establishment of the South Antrim Rural Network (SARN), which lobbies for improved support and services for rural areas. ARCHES continues to sit on the SARN Board of Directors and SARN's offices are located in the ARCHES House complex; Closure of Drop-In Centre (2002) - when funding came to an end it was no longer possible to sustain the centre. The computer facilities were transferred to ARCHES House to enable the delivery of NOF funded training and education project; Arches House & Lane Youth Development Project (2004) 14,000; ARCHES Peace Train (2004) 16,000; ARCHES Means Business ( 2004) 7,000; Arches Mews ( 2005) 400,000.
2006 - 2009: Since 2006 ARCHES has continued to work in co-operation with numerous partners. On the physical environment side: ARCHES worked with Antrim Borough Council on a consultative process to produce a Masterplan for Randalstown. Again with Antrim Borough Council ARCHES worked on plans for a community playground. Construction will start on site later this year; ARCHES completed the Townscape Heritage programme drawing down grant funding of 550,000 for a range of building improvements throughout the conservation area.
ARCHES continue to provide a range of services from ARCHES House to individuals and businesses, including use of the community hall, training suite and computer room, and business services such as faxing, photocopying and laminating.
The organisation of the major annual events, the lighting up of the Christmas tree and ARCHES Festival demand substantial time and effort, from the Board of Directors and from many other volunteers whose help is indispensable.
ARCHES has been fortunate in receiving continued financial support from Antrim Borough Council, the Community Festivals Fund and the Enkalon Foundation as well as generous sponsorship and assistance from local businesses and organisations in making these events not only possible, but successful.
Ongoing funding from the Department of Social Development has supported the day-to-day running of ARCHES. This, together with the programme of development in ARCHES Lane and ARCHES Mews, providing business units to promote local employment as well as comfortable apartments for rent, has brought us within reach of financial self-sustainability; this is a longterm goal and indeed a requirement for all community groups as sources of grant funding become scarcer.
In total since its establishment, ARCHES has been successful in securing some 2,500,000 of funding for services and projects to benefit people in the Randalstown area.