Building a sustainable future in Hexham through community engagement


This project, based in Hexham, Northumberland, built a town-wide approach to community resilience and sustainability. It aimed to include as many members of Hexham’s population as possible, extending the reach of existing positive climate-related action from community groups and other organisations. 

Hexham Town Councillor Ariane Baty shares more about her experience engaging with the Hexham community around climate action, including some of the journey to becoming a councillor. 

Building relationships

A key part of this project is around engagement and building relationships, highlighted by four key points

1. Grassroots engagement: 

Residents set up Hexham Climate Action (HCA) meetings in 2018 to engage those concerned about the climate crisis. In these meetings, plans were made for wider engagement through regular public meetings, attending Town Council meetings, supporting local school climate strikes and writing to the local MP. 

2. Election to Hexham Town Council: 

A group of independent candidates and their supporters (OpenHexham) was founded in 2021 to increase the number of town councillors giving greater voice to people’s concerns, including the impending climate crisis and how to shape community resilience. The campaign engaged the public through open Q&A zoom meetings, prominent stalls and banners in key town locations, a website, email address, telephone numbers and social media pages with a clear objective of simply listening to residents.  

3. Utilising the town councillor role: 

OpenHexham councillors and additional councillors further engaged the Hexham community on the subject of climate crisis and community resilience through: 

  • One-to-one conversations with local organisations  
  • A working group to develop the sustainability vision and policy for the town.  
  • Attending monthly market stalls seeking residents’ views to inform decision-making at council meetings. 
  • Three Hexham Net Zero Fairs held since 2022 to engage the town’s groups and organisations.   
  • Endorsement and support of monthly climate café drop-in sessions, including involvement in setting up a community assembly for 2024.  
  • A Town Council school poster competition, visiting every local school in 2022 to ask pupils how they envisage the town dealing with the climate emergency in 2030. 

4. Community-led engagement: 

From the Hexham Net Zero Fairs, the town now has a steering committee to bring about net-zero goals (transport, sustainable energy, food production, community, business) with representatives from all sectors. Initial stakeholder meetings are currently being set up by local people for local people and supported by non-profit Sycamore Net Zero CIC. Further engagement is also under discussion with local cultural institutions (Queens Hall Arts, Hexham library, etc.) to extend interest to develop annual week-long community events on the topic of sustainability and community resilience. 

Hexham Town Councillor,

Ariane Baty, explains more:

Ariane said:

“Public engagement feels like a slow process sometimes but can have amazing outcomes. Through the efforts of a group of flatpack democracy-style independent councillors working closely with other town councillors and residents, I believe Hexham’s community is well on its way to building a sustainable future for all.”

Contact details:

Ariane Baty