Countryside Agency: Vital Villages Project Dataset
The Vital Villages Grants Programme was established by the Countryside Agency as a web based project database in 2001 and ran until 31 March 2005.
The Countryside Agency awarded grants to small rural communities to encourage them to:
- identify and act to meet local needs;
- help meet their needs for local service provisions in ways that suit local circumstances;
- enable small rural communities, and wider partnerships to implement local solutions to meet their local transport needs.
The programme itself encompassed four major schemes or project types as follows:
Parish Plan Grant scheme (PPG): This scheme facilitated the funding and development of Parish Plans produced by and for communities which outlined both immediate and long-term social, economic, or environmental priorities of importance to these communities. The Department encouraged communities to involve partners in the process of developing a plan and to in turn use the information gathered to influence the plans and policies of others.
Community Service Grants (CSG): The CSG Scheme gave decision-making authority to respective communities to identify what type of service was most needed in the community, thereby leading to a wide array of projects being funded under the Scheme from club and leisure facilities to provision of childcare and IT-based learning facilities. Commercial businesses and individuals were eligible for the grants. A typical output from this scheme included village shops including community enterprises and enhanced services for existing shops.
Rural Transport Partnership Projects (RTPG): The RTP scheme, established in April 2001, was a grant scheme administered by the Countryside Agency on behalf of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Its central aim was to assist largely community-based initiatives seeking to improve transport in their local area and where possible helping to promote social inclusion and tackle the problems of rural isolation. Anyone was eligible to apply for this grant, providing it could be proven that the local community would benefit from the project and that the aims of the transport scheme met the relevant criteria under the RTP scheme.
The original hardware is not known. The Operating System at the time of transferral to UK NDAD was Windows Server 2003.
Application Software: The database, VitalVillages2004, was originally developed in MS SQL Server, version 2000 by Rocktime Ltd. The version transferred to UKNDAD was also in MS SQL Server 2000 as a database backup file structure. The web application was developed by Rocktime Ltd using Custom web application (MS IIS5).
User Interface: The Vital Villages Project staff data input module comprised a number of online forms covering a range of functions from 'viewing projects', 'adding' and 'editing' projects, to 'attaching documents'. The interface also provided access to lookup selection lists such as those containing a list for good practice criteria ID codes (as part of the good practice criteria selected for each project) and a lookup table listing the available project themes.
The dataset is dynamic, in the sense that new information is entered into the existing database thus periodically producing a new snapshot.
The Countryside Agency (CA) was largely responsible for the creation and administration of the Vital Villages Project dataset from its inception in 2001 until the Vital Villages Team officially ceased to exist from 1 April 2005. The CA's Vital Villages programme was a grant programme set up with the aim of identifying and delivering innovative approaches that would meet the needs of rural communities. The programme was initiated as part of a broader Government agenda to spread economic and social opportunity to the people of rural England, as originally laid out in the White Paper Our Countryside: Our Future (2000).
A key objective of the programme was to acquire and share knowledge about rural needs, rural communities and the solutions which best meet these needs. The data generated from the programme contributed an extensive volume of information to the rural evidence base.
The dataset in this series largely comprises grant records from the Vital Villages grants programme. While the programme was open (April 2001 - March 2005), the data was used for project management by Agency regional staff and monitoring and evaluation of the programme by the Agency National Vital Villages team. Once all project applications had been received by 31 March 2004, the Countryside Agency undertook a second major phase of database development by designating priority to collecting information for case studies and identifying good practice. As most of the project data was accessible to the public via the Countryside Agency's website, the data was therefore additionally used to inform the public and share good practice by disseminating key lessons learned.
In 2003 a brief period of consultancy was awarded to external contractors, FIFO, to undertake some specific interface design work for the front-end components of the online database (public and staff facing). External contractors, Rocktime Ltd, however were appointed to undertake the core development of the system including the web based control interface for the database and implementation of the front-end into the designs created and built by FIFO. The accompanying project website was also hosted by Rocktime Ltd at the following url: http://vitalvillages.rocktimeweb.net/. On 31 March 2005, responsibility for the Vital Villages project grants was transferred to the Regional Development Agencies and Government Offices. It was intended that central responsibility for the Vital Villages project database would pass to the New Countryside Agency (NCA), operating as a non-departmental body sponsored by DEFRA. From 1 April 2005, the NCA proactively used the database as a tool for research and information dissemination regarding the long-term community impact of projects.
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