As David Cameron promotes his ideas for a Big Society to get more people get involved with their local communities, Juliet Platt meets Redhouse’s own big society role model, former teacher and mum of two Ellie Hunt.
Since being voted chairperson of Redhouse Residents’ Association in March 2010, Ellie has attracted lots of attention, not just for her community work but also for her inspirational leadership style and solution-focussed approach to local issues.
“Our membership has grown from about 20 to 30 people in January 2009 to a current level of about 160,” Ellie said. “It’s important to take the association out to people rather than waiting for them to come to us.”
Being a mum of young children herself, Ellie understands the difficulties people face in attending evening meetings. She also hosts regular coffee mornings at her home in Addinsell Road, and organises social events for families so that there are more opportunities for people in the community to voice their concerns.
“With so much development going on around us we need to make sure we shout about the things that are important to us, before Redhouse is forgotten and before problems are made worse by neighbouring developments,” Ellie said.
“Just getting the information out there releases people’s frustrations so they can understand where things have gone wrong and then take action to fix them,” said Ellie. “It’s no use just moaning a lot. I encourage everyone to bring solutions to the Redhouse meetings.”
Originally from Barrow in Cumbria, Ellie attributes her strong community drive to her up-bringing. “My parents owned a shop on an estate where everyone knew everyone,” said Ellie. “Even now my dad can remember who got what paper at what address.
“It’s the little everyday links that make communities; things like how you find a baby-sitter and how you get to know local mums when your children are dispersed across different schools.
“To be honest we don’t realise how lucky we are here in Redhouse. You can walk to a lot of the facilities you need like shops, library, nurseries, doctors, playparks and schools. The main problems have been in the lack of a holistic approach in the planning decisions.”
Traffic, nursery school places, sharing space with builders and encouraging leisure groups in the community are high on Ellie’s agenda. While she sees herself likely to become more involved with local issues in the future, Ellie also hankers after creating a gardening club. “I’m a bit of an eco-womble and have filled my garden with plants that the developers were throwing away,” she said.
No doubt she will see her community ‘seed planting’ bear much fruit in months to come.
Association September meeting
Water reduction on the agenda
Redhouse Residents’ Association holds it next meeting on 9 September, 7.30pm, at Red Oaks Primary School at the Learning Campus.
Heather Large of the Save Water Swindon Project will talk about the campaign launched in July to turn Swindon from a water stressed town to one that uses water efficiently. The aim is to persuade each resident of the town to cut water use by 20 litres per day and she will provide information packs and goodies to reduce water consumption.
The meeting will also discuss responses from Swindon Council’s Streetsmart section on waste collection and open space maintenance. To put a question in advance, mail email@example.com
There will be reports on latest planning applications affecting the area and Swindon Council members and parish councillors will also be on hand to answer questions about community issues and council policies.
Open coffee afternoon at chairwoman Ellie Hunt’s house on Thursday 16 September, 1.30pm to 4.30pm. For details mail: firstname.lastname@example.org