They say little acorns grow into mighty oaks – and this analogy is true for the parish of Newby and Scalby in Scarborough.
In the case of this parish, it was little problems which grew a little idea that has impacted the area in a big way, brought to life by joined up local thinking.
The “little acorn” was the brainchild of the Clerk to Newby and Scalby Parish Council, Jools Marley.
Jools noticed things around the parish which were becoming unkempt, from rusting street nameplates and direction signs to overgrown grass verges.
The Parish Council decided that in order to address the problem permanently, they needed to take matters into their own hands - so decided to create the role of parish caretaker.
After Bob Kendall took on the role of Parish Caretaker last November, the reaction has gone above and beyond what anyone would have hoped for.
Reg Towse, Chairman of the Parish Council, said: “It’s been outstanding. When the caretaker is out and about doing jobs, we have people going up and thanking him, which is something that has never happened before.
“It is very satisfying that we’ve been able to make it work ourselves.”
Jools Marley, Clerk to the Parish Council, said: “We had this little acorn of an idea that we were just going to do it ourselves, and it’s going to grow into a mighty oak.
“It’s so good to get these things solved – even though it’s small issues, they all add up to a bigger problem. So having someone to sort it out for us not only makes the parish look better but makes residents happy and then they want to take pride in their community too.”
Last year, Jools began to make a note of things around the parish which needed looking at or tidying.
She said “It was small problems that added up to a bigger issue. Green algae covering the road signs, street nameplates that were rusty or direction posts that were unreadable, overgrown hedges and grass verges growing over pavements.
“Every time I went out I saw something different which needed doing.
“And so began the germ of an idea around this time last year that the Parish Council could hire our own parish caretaker to look after the small things.”
The County Councillors for Newby, Cllr. Andrew Backhouse, and Scalby, Cllr. Derek Bastiman, each helped out by contributing some of their locality budget to the cause.
Highways ensured the caretaker had the correct PPE to do the work, including steel-toed boots, gloves and high-vis clothing.
Helpfully, the PPE was branded with the Parish Council logo, which meant parishioners knew exactly who to go to if they had a problem and needed some work.
Jools added: “It’s been fantastic. We’ve had excellent feedback on the maintenance of grass verges for example.
“People in specific areas that use walkways with overgrown grass verges have noticed they are no longer walking or pushing prams through a muddy mess.
“It’s the same with overgrown hedges. They are a risk to people who are blind or have poor eyesight, for example, walking into them. But now we can get the hedges sorted and it’s sorted and a lot better for everyone.
“I think we lost a collective responsibility for things looking nice. In the days of highways lengthmen – where maintenance for a stretch of road would be the responsibility of one person – there was a sense of pride in each specific stretch.
“I think we lost that and for a while, when people saw a problem they’d think someone else should sort it out.
“And what is great is that when someone comes to us and says: ‘This sign is dirty’ or ‘This hedge needs trimming’ we can just say that we have someone who can do that. It puts faith back into the system.
“Also, once residents have seen improvement in one area and how good it can look they are far more inclined to do it themselves. So it’s a cycle really.
“Even though we haven't been able to do as much as we would have liked due to the coronavirus pandemic, the changes are there for all to see. People outside the parish have noticed a difference too.”
Reg added: “It is great that we have that direct action. Someone brings something up, and we can usually get the job done within days.
“Rather than waiting weeks or months, it’s sorted almost straight away which I believe people are quite impressed with.”
The parish has nearly 10,000 residents and 4,500 homes – which is set to grow over the next ten to fifteen years to over 6,000 homes.
Scalby is an old village dating from the 1600s, with plenty of extremely affluent residents.
Newby is far more urban and modern.
There’s a gap in wants and needs from Scalby to Newby, meaning the Parish Council has to work extra hard to represent residents across the board.
But, Jools says an idea like this is an example of how something small can solve bigger problems - and how teamwork across multiple organisations can help to ease pressures.
She said: “Us doing this with the help of Highways means that it takes things off the plate of the County Council.
“Because we can handle this, it frees up more space and time for them to handle the bigger things which we can’t, meaning it benefits everyone.”
The parish caretaker project was set to be trialled for a year, but it’s hoped the project will become a regular part of the services the Parish Council provides.
Cllr Don Mackenzie, Executive Member for Highways, said: “This is an example of really effective cooperation between partners.
“In this case, the parish council has worked closely with NYCC highways staff and councillors and, together, they have achieved results which are of great benefit to their local residents. Well done to all."
Cllr Derek Bastiman said: “It was a pleasure to contribute to this initiative.
“I have been a member of the Parish Council for over 30 and have noticed how funding arrangements have changed dramatically, it was with this in mind that when the opportunity arose to use some of my Locality Budget I was only too pleased to assist.
“I am extremely proud of my area and anything that can be done that improves the environment should be applauded.”