Community participation and the village appraisal process in rural England: a case study of Northamptonshire

  • Victoria Jane Bradley

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The uptake of village appraisals in the English countryside has attracted considerable attention over recent years though, in contrast to the many earlier studies, this research examines the nature and process of participation in these essentially ‘bottom-up’ initiatives and explores the connections between the uptake of village appraisals, their outcomes and key participants. A realist approach is developed to enable a detailed interpretation of the process of village appraisals at the national and local level, focusing upon the wider national structures and the ways these are shaped by the distinctive characteristics of individual localities and the people and groups who live there. This study focuses on the county of Northamptonshire, which has a long history of self-help and where village appraisals have been taken up with particular enthusiasm. Given the shift towards local governance in the past two decades, and a growing emphasis on individual and community responsibility and procedures such as the village appraisal which mobilize local skills and resources and empower rural communities from the structures of government, the study involves a detailed investigation of the relationships which currently exist between the statutory authorities and local communities with specific reference to the village appraisal. Further research using participant observation of over 30 steering group meetings in three case-study villages, supported by a survey of over 300 households and 40 interviews with parish councillors and steering group members, gave detailed insights into the means by which local people were availed of the opportunity to participate in the village appraisal process and to shape its content and structure. The key conclusions indicate that significant tensions are evident in the attitudes of local government agencies, particularly in how they might participate in the village appraisal process and what forms that participation should take. At the local level, the notion of participation, seen as an integral part of rural life, is shown as illusory with most villages and villagers choosing not to become involved. As a result most appraisals are conducted by small elites within the village, often with the token involvement of the population through a questionnaire survey.
    Date of Award2000
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Northampton
    • University of Leicester
    SupervisorKenneth Sherwood (Supervisor)

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