Halvergate Marshes

Parish Plans and our method of approach

In the Spring of 2014 a small team, comprising Robert More, Rob Hayles, Jessica Jennings and Graham Cann as team leader, was formed to work towards the production of a Parish Plan. To remind us – broadly, Parish Plans are intended to set out how the community would like things to develop in its Parish for the future and to include an agreed programme of viable actions designed to achieve that.

As there is sometimes confusion, it is perhaps worthwhile to point out they are not the same as a Neighbourhood Plan. Such plans set out policies on the development and use of land in a parish or 'neighbourhood area'. They therefore differ from Parish Plans in that they focus purely on building development/planning and the environment, are more formalised having to follow a statutory process, and have to conform to planning policies and guidance at the local, national and European level.

Parish Plans were envisaged as part of a nationwide initiative, begun some years ago, to help breathe new life into rural communities and to help people develop a vision for the locality in which they live. Crucially, such an exercise needs to be ‘ground up’ in its approach with opinions and suggestions gathered from as many of the people living in the parish as possible, making it a truly Community Led Plan.

Parishioners attending the Open Day at the PavilionConsequently, a few opinions were gathered from local residents at the 2014 Annual Village Meeting and more significantly from over 200 ‘Post It’ note comments made by those attending an Open Day event at The Pavilion later on in September that year, an event specifically designed to help identify key issues and opinions amongst the community.

These thoughts, criticisms, suggestions, etc. provided the basis for the drafting of a wider-ranging Questionnaire which included other matters known to be relevant here and/or known to have been covered in other typical Parish Plan investigations. Our questionnaire was prepared by November but held back from distribution in order to avoid the Christmas and New Year period. The aim was to get a questionnaire delivered to every household possible and to ensure enough were returned completed to provide a representative measure of opinion across the community.


Response rate

During March 2015 a process of Questionnaire delivery and collection was carried out by eight Parish Councillors and the Parish Plan team leader. From the 227 households receiving a Questionnaire, 166 were completed and returned – a response rate of 73%. A very good result: better than most others who have undertaken this exercise and certainly the highest response rate in our immediate vicinity.

Grateful thanks to everyone taking part and for giving feedback that is sufficient to enable the identification of meaningful opinions, issues, factors and trends.


Database and the Report

While the ‘Main Questionnaire’ addressed ‘You’ as if an individual, questions were intended to relate to the views of the household as a whole and although one person was likely to fill-in the questionnaire it was the overall family opinion being sought as far as possible. However, all responses have been counted whether from a general family agreement or majority view, or from an individual.

The tick box responses and ‘write-in’ sections from all the completed forms were entered into a software package to analyse the results. This was then given preliminary interpretation to identify key points and the weight of community opinion behind them, with a ‘top line’ report of the findings presented at The Annual Village Meeting on 30 April 2015.

More work has been done subsequently to analyse all that the research is telling us and to prepare this fuller interpretive report. Figures are based on having excluded the ‘No answer’ element throughout – i.e. calculating percentages or giving a ‘weight of opinion’ score for each question based only on those responding with a tick in one of the boxes. Perhaps it should be pointed out that in the Tables the numerals represent the actual number of answers and the length of the coloured bars is equivalent to the percentage or proportion. The results in the Tables are ranked in order of the ‘weight of opinion’ or, put another way, ‘strength of agreement’ with the statement or proposition being responded to, with the strongest at the top.

While 227 questionnaires were delivered the electoral register gives the number of households in the parish as 230. Nevertheless, the 166 returns from the total household ‘universe’ is still 72%.

With most questions being answered by less than 166 and in varying quantities it is difficult to be exact about ‘statistical significance’ – i.e. how accurately do the responses represent the parish population as a whole. However, with in general a good ‘majority return’ we can be confident in judging opinions as sufficiently representative to give direction for the future.

The argument could also reasonably be made that the feedback from those that troubled to participate in the information-gathering process, though not always absolutely statistically representative, should anyway be given precedent.

This last point is also in part an argument for the value of the ‘qualitative’ information received from the open-ended questions inviting people to write down their comments. In our case and in research generally, these are relatively few in number and never numerically measurable but they are of value in giving a more human dimension to the hard data, perhaps enabling an estimation of strength of emotional attachment, providing thoughts and ideas that cannot come from tick-boxes, giving unique insights, etc..

In the report that follows such qualitative feedback has been summarised but full verbatim quotes are available to anyone interested via the ‘Raw Results’ given for each question.


Local population make up

Some figures demonstrating the population represented by the 166 completed questionnaires are appropriate at this point in order to give context to the findings.

There were 141 questionnaires returned from Halvergate and 16 from Tunstall. A further nine returning households failed to identify where they lived but as there are only 18 dwellings in Tunstall we can safely assume most if not all of the ‘unallocated’ returns came from Halvergate.

The total number of residents in the households completing questionnaires was 412 – comprised of 211 females and 201 males. From 2011 National Census data the population of Halvergate parish was 607 – with 302 females and 305 males. Broadly then, the returned questionnaires represent two-thirds of residents in Halvergate & Tunstall.


The age breakdown from our survey was:
Age Breakdown from Parish Plan survey vs National Age Breakdown at the last Cencus 

Although close to the national picture in many respects, our parish is noticeably lower in the proportion of those aged 16 to 29 and noticeably higher for over-60s.

In terms of duration of residency, this appears quite stable and long-term with 61% of households having lived here for 10 years or more and 14% between six and nine years; other duration periods show 3% for less than one year, 16% one to three and 7% four to five.

In answer to ‘How did you come to live here?’, reasons given were: Born here 19%; Work 11%; Just thought it would be a good place 48%; Family ties 9%; Retirement 3%; and Other 9% (main different reasons given being the opportunity to build and/or renovate, and council tenancy).