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When Mayor of Hereford, Kath Hey, was invited to join the independent Town’s Fund board, she welcomed the chance to work towards an ambitious vision where Hereford’s unique rural heritage would complement sustainable future development. The Towns Fund board, called #StrongerHereford, is made up of local leaders, businesses and communities who have put forward a bid for £25 million to Central Government. The bid was the culmination of months of extensive engagement with people across Hereford and it was instrumental for the City Council to be part of that process to ensure a strategic and cohesive connection. “This is very much about future proofing the city for the next generation” said Kath. “The City Council is very much about being at the heart of our communities by connecting them, providing grants and an overall commitment to make sure they’re supported. But of course, our many communities are all different so there was a concerted effort to discover how we can make significant improvements whilst retaining what we love about Hereford.” The guidelines for the bid stipulated that projects needed to focus on improved transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture. As Kath continues “Hereford needs to recover following Covid when the time is right. Too many people have lost their livelihood and young people have continued to migrate away from the city. Focusing on skills and growth seems particularly pertinent”. “The Towns Fund is all about levelling up so essentially making Hereford an even better place to live, visit and work in. The public were equally passionate as we were to embrace our rich heritage whilst improving quality of life.” January saw a milestone with the bid (called the Town Investment Plan) submitted to Central Government. It’s quite an ambitious plan which has evoked strong reactions across the city. But the plan is one that was created fairly and with a clear vision. “You’ll recognise that the plan features connectivity as a theme and it builds on the community transport legacy already in place” says Kath. “But when we talk about connectivity, we also mean people as well as transport links and that means having things to do.” The process wasn’t without its challenges and it’s no surprise about how passionate discussions on which projects to support were. What was absolutely clear was a mutual desire to create something that integrated all parts of the city. But what next for those projects that didn’t make the final cut? Kath says “This really brought to light how many dedicated people are doing inspiring things in the city. As a group we felt we can continue to support them, connect them to the right people and provide guidance on how to secure funding that’s a better fit”. “We had to continually refer back to our vision to put forward projects that have the best chance of successful funding. Each project is like a part of a puzzle and together they create something fantastic. But we were also conscious that there were so many projects that whilst not suitable for this funding, we didn’t want to forget.” Hereford City Council is actively looking to work with other partners that are working towards enhancing the city. Contact them for more information.