Members of Tidenham parish gathered at the weekend to celebrate the launch of a new community resource which is enabling residents to make local journeys that are less harmful to the environment and cost free. 

The fully electric Citroen E-Space 9-seater van has been purchased by Tidenham Parish Council and is now available for community groups operating within the parish to use. 

Reported to be one of the first projects of its kind in Gloucestershire, the new community van has been funded entirely through Section 106 money distributed to the parish council by the Forest of Dean District Council. 

The vehicle can be used free of charge, although those making a booking or undertaking a journey can make a financial donation towards the vehicle’s running costs if they wish. 

Councillor Chris McFarling, Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency at Forest of Dean District Council, said: “Community transport offers enormous social and economic benefits and plays a vital role in fulfilling the travel needs for many people. Offering transport options with little or no emissions, and which enable journeys to be shared, brings additional environmental benefits by reducing mileage and improving air quality. We hope projects like this will inspire others to look at opportunities for sustainable transport and the benefits that can be delivered to local communities."

Councillor Jan Koning, Chairman of Tidenham Parish Council, said: “We are excited to be launching the community electric van which has been made possible due to funding obtained through the Forest of Dean District Council and we would like to thank the Council for its generous help and support throughout this process. Those living in rural communities, especially the elderly and the young, can struggle to access easy and affordable transport so we hope this new resource will make a real difference in helping meet this need.”  

Councillor Michael Swambo, Tidenham Parish Council, added: “Many living in the parish, particularly older members of our community, would like to attend events and activities being held locally such as lunchtime clubs, but the costs for a taxi or the long wait times for a limited number of available buses can be a barrier to them doing this. We hope the new vehicle will be a catalyst to bring more people together for the benefit of their health and wellbeing and help them do so in a more sustainable way.”  

It is hoped that in the future the vehicle will be used to help get people to and from local hospital appointments and regular health clinics. The possibility of running a shuttle service at peak times to help residents connect to nearby railway stations, to support other low carbon means of travel, is also being considered. 

Groups interested in joining Tidenham’s Community Transport Scheme need to register with the Parish Council after which they will be able to make bookings via the new online booking system. 

The new vehicle will be based at Sedbury and Beachley Village Hall. 

Section 106 agreement contributions are paid directly to local planning authorities, such as Forest of Dean District Council, by developers to mitigate the impact of larger developments and to make them more acceptable in planning terms. Covenants within the agreement are put in place to make sure the funding is spent for its intended purpose. 

To qualify for funding, Tidenham Parish Council’s bid had to demonstrate how the project would contribute to improving local air quality.  

It is estimated that use of the vehicle could save up to 7,000 car journeys per year. 

Community groups wishing to find out more about booking the new vehicle should email Tidenham Parish Council at: [email protected]