The Healthcheck process was developed by the Countryside Agency as a tool for market towns to develop a local action plan for the whole community. It allows the community to carry out research into the vitality of town and to define ways that the town can improve facilities and services for the benefit of residents, businesses and visitors, both within the town and the surrounding rural area. The process involves extensive consultation with all sections of the community and culminates in the publication of a community action plan that sets out the agreed priorities and actions for the future of the town and its surrounding area.
The Market Towns Healthcheck starts with a factual ‘Snapshot of the town and continues with worksheets covering four main topic areas:
Community Consultation is one of the fundamental elements of the healthcheck process and great attention is paid to ensuring that all sections of the community have an opportunity to have their say.
The research results are drawn together in a summary of key issues and a Vision Statement for the town and surrounding countryside. Community consultation helps to define the priorities and the actions that will be included in the final Action Plan.
Town healthchecks and action plans have been encouraged in recent years by the Government as a means whereby towns can vocalise their needs and aspirations. It is the current Government policy to increase active community participation and to develop a key role for local action plans to help to influence local authority and other public sector bodies and policies.
Healthchecks and Action plans based in this format are seen by agencies such as South East Economic Development Agency (SEEDA) as a necessary precursor to bids for funding and support. There is consequently more likelihood of a successful bid for grant funding if a healthcheck has been carried out.