Starachowice – “Direction Future”
The “Direction Future – the Starachowice Local Development Plan” project has officially begun. The Starachowice municipality will be partnering with Bergen, the second largest city in Norway.

The project is co-financed from the Norwegian Financial Mechanism for the years 2014-2021 (85%) and the State Budget (15%).

“We are taking our next and hugely important step today. I am very happy we have found such a strong partner for substantive, content-based co-operation. To us, this collaboration scheme is a guarantee of high-quality assistance in delivering a project promising multiple benefits to our residents. We are going to put the knowledge and expertise of our Norwegian partners to good use, and make every effort to provide Starachowice with the best possible solutions. While the project is extraordinarily difficult, it is an excellent choice for our town, affecting many aspects of local life, including education, ecology, development, entrepreneurship and social activity. We will do whatever it takes to do a great job,” – mayor of Starachowice Marek Materek emphasised.

Together with the Norwegian Partner

A Norwegian delegation has been staying in Starachowice since Wednesday. Prior to their arrival, they had – accompanied by representatives of the Municipality – participated in a project-focusing conference organised by the Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy in Warsaw (attended i.a. by the Ambassadors of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein to Poland).

Notably, Starachowice made the count of 29 victorious local governments (ranking 3rd) chosen from over 200 municipalities from across Poland who had applied for Norway Grants as part of the “Local Development” Programme. As a result, the municipality will receive nearly PLN 16 million from the Norwegian Financial Mechanism for the years 2014-2021, for purposes of implementing the town’s New Development Path.

Key goals and activities

The main goal of the project is to improve the local community’s living standards by delivering comprehensive social, educational, environmental, economic and institutional programmes and projects.

Two flagship investments have been identified as key activities. One involves the construction of a pedway at the Palace building, grounds improvement and equipment included, with intent to develop the so-called Impact Hub – Incubator of Social Thought. The other comprises works planned for an “ECO School”
– Primary School No. 11 is to accommodate an Ecological Education Centre targeting young people and local residents. Plans include document drafting, renovation works, purchase of equipment and furnishings, and design of educational curricula.

The city will also draft technical documentation, strategic papers and conceptual activity descriptions to be used for purposes of delivering housing, environmental protection, education and institutional development projects. The social and participative component is essential as well, which is why a community centre and Social Activity Centre will be set up at the Wzgórze residential housing quarter. Project funds will further be used to finance staff remuneration, meals and any equipment required.

The community centre offer will be designed to include attractive classes for children and local residents in general, as well as an occupational counselling team including i.a. a psychologist and family coach. Training courses, workshops and community campaigns will be organised for various groups, including senior citizens, young people, non-governmental organisations, teachers, local government employees and persons with disabilities.

All aforesaid activities are intended to prepare the city for demographic and climate challenges, and include local government professionalisation campaigns.

The project’s environmental module primarily comprises the aforesaid ECO-School, designing innovative ecological training courses for young people and teaching staff, drafting a Municipal Low Emission Programme and Municipal Climate Change Adaptation Plan, and the purchase of an anti-smog drone to monitor urban air quality. Design documentation will also be drafted for purposes of developing green gardens on the grounds of municipal educational facilities.

Ecology ties in closely with housing policy. The project comprises works to draft documentation for two ecological residential buildings and a model housing estate to be developed on an old hospital site. A new housing strategy until the year 2030 is to be drawn up as well.

Ecological courses apart, educational efforts will include “My Own Business” workshops targeting young people, the drafting and implementation of a “Competencies of the Future” pilot programme for young attendants, and a series of training courses for non-governmental organisations.

Institutional Development

“Local Development” Programme-sourced financial assistance will allow the municipality to professionalise the local government, i.a. organise language and other training courses for municipal staff. Different facilitation measures for the blind and persons with visual impairments will be developed at the Municipal Authority, including proper equipment and accessories, such as Braille signage. Accessibility standards will be drafted.

A completely new website will be designed for the municipality, accounting for all state-of-the-art standards. Two new portals – one for the municipality’s ecological programmes, the other for non-governmental organisations – will be set up, including a new offer and application generator. A new visual identification brand will be developed for the municipality, including folders promoting the town and local businesses. Professional equipment will be purchased for purposes of handling image policies and communicating with local residents.

Norwegian or Icelandic partners have been found for 16 of the 29 municipalities. The first bilateral agreement has ­already been signed by Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski and Sogndal, Norway. Others will be signed on 2 June, in Rydułtowy (with Øvre Eiker, Norway), Łomża (with Nordland, Norway), Zawiercie (with Møre Og Romsdal, Norway) and Starachowice (with Bergen, Norway). The remaining 13 cities and towns without Scandinavian partners will offered other forms of working with Norwegian municipalities.

Early examples of bilateral Polish-Norwegian-Icelandic partnership cases were presented at the conference: Starachowice / Bergen, Jelenia Góra / Akureyri, Iceland, and Rydułtowy / Øvre Eiker.

The conference agenda for day two included workshops with a focus on 5 areas of collaboration (institutional development, social participation, climate change, young people’s entrepreneurship and silver economy).