Last Thursday I attended a meeting at the Hereford Cider Museum to discuss the work which Nick Sherwood and colleagues from Herefordshire Transition Network are doing on developing ‘a thriving, resilient Herefordshire economy’ that is capable of meeting ‘the challenges of climate change, energy security and economic uncertainty’. They are working with a range of people and organisations across the county, many of whom were represented at the meeting.

The meeting began with a presentation from Fiona Ward of Totnes Transition Network describing the radical economic development plan, they are working on, using the principles set out in the excellent REconomy Programme that has been developed by the Transition Movement.

In Totnes, they had used the three building blocks of Reconomy – developing leadership and a shared vision, seeking to transform existing organisations and starting new enterprises – to look at how localised approaches to economic development could be applied to; food production and distribution, housing retrofitting, local energy production and care and well-being.

They had collected detailed information about how these products and services are being delivered currently in Totnes and they had analysed the balance between local and non-local production in each category. They had then looked at ways in which existing businesses could increase the proportion of local production/delivery, which they undertake, and the gaps, which this would still leave. On this basis they had identified opportunities to establish a number of new local enterprises.

The plan had gathered support from a wide range of partners/stakeholders, including the Local Authority, the Chamber of Commerce and many local businesses, some larger businesses and the third sector. They were now looking to reach agreement with several large non-local businesses, as to how they could improve their local ‘offer’. They were also working with existing local businesses to strengthen their position and they were working on 20 different proposals for new enterprises.

Fiona’s presentation was very well received and sparked a lively debate between the different groups and organisations at the meeting. There was surprising degree of consensus about the need to develop a local economy in Herefordshire that was sustainable and that supported local enterprises that embraced Transition thinking. This included many of the private sector representatives, including a member of the LEP, who was keen to see Herefordshire support innovative ways of doing things rather than simply chasing inward investment.  The Local Authority representatives were also supportive, although they rather suggested that their economic development plan had got there first! There was concern about the lack of co-ordination and the danger of duplication of work. The Bulmer Foundation, which already invests in various projects around sustainability, offered future investment in the project, which was very encouraging.

Localise WM is excited about the REconomy potential in Herefordshire and sees potential mutually beneficial links with the findings of our Mainstreaming Community Economic Development project, which we hope to explore with Transitioners in Hereford and elsewhere soon.

Jon Stevens