Town Meets To Plan Economic Fight Back For Okehampton

29th March, 2011
Devon County Council led an emergency meeting last night to agree a support and economic regeneration package for Okehampton.
In recent months the town has lost almost 350 jobs with the closure of Wiseman?s milk factory and Browns and Polestar.
The meeting, held at the Okehampton Business Centre, included representatives of the town, local business leaders, members of the Town Council, West Devon Borough Council, Devon and Cornwall Business Council, local training providers, the community planning partnership, Devon Heartlands, and local business support agency BIP.
The group has drawn up a set of proposals to give business, community and training support to the town in light of recent redundancy announcements.
Councillor Will Mumford, Devon County Council?s Cabinet Member for Economic Regeneration and Strategic Planning, said: ?The meeting was incredibly productive with everyone focused on what we could do to create opportunity in Okehampton.
?We want to provide a tailored package providing business and employment training as well as community support. It is vital that we enable economic development in the area through supporting Okehampton?s people and businesses.?
Recommendations include the setting up of a skills initiative to provide both general and specific training, the appointment of a business advocate and community engagement workers, specific skills packages for young people and support for disadvantaged local people.
A working group will be set up to review the skills and training needs of both individuals, businesses and potential employers across the town and travel to work area.
Tim Jones from Devon and Cornwall Business Council said: ?At its heart, Okehampton has tremendous resilience and a strong community spirit. We will need to call on these qualities both for the short and long term, looking at how we can create enterprise, generate inward investment and attract potential employers.?
A number of government agencies will work together with local bodies to deliver tailored skills and learning support and to consider the potential for creation of new employment.

The working group will have strong local participation, with businesses, training providers, community groups and schools working in partnership to identify needs and create a specific set of programmes for Okehampton.
James McInnes, Leader of West Devon Borough Council said: ?We are putting together a comprehensive set of proposals to secure the future of our town.

?The long term nature of this project means that we will also be looking at how we can help young people get the skills they need to get into work."

?The involvement of the local community is critical in the development of this project, and I'm heartened to see so many agencies standing shoulder to shoulder to make it happen.?