A NEW group has been established for residents of a North Yorkshire town and its surrounding villages to discuss and help shape their own future.

The Easingwold and Villages Forum has been launched as an attempt to address the broad issues affecting the area.

One of the forum organisers, Martin Whillock, said: "At the moment there are lots of parish councils which look after their own parish, but there are lots of infrastructure things that affect all of them.

"The forum will identify the issues of the whole area.

"It will help to bring grants to the local area and to redirect local authority spending into the area."

The forum has arisen out of the Easingwold and Villages Local Plan, which was funded by Hambleton District Council and published earlier this year.

A steering group established to produce the local plan, looking at the issues affecting the area and producing its own targets for action, suggested the forum's creation.

About 16 members have signed up to be involved in leading the forum committee.

Lisa Bennington, Hambleton District Council community link officer, said: "We have quite a diverse range of people who will be able to take projects forward.

"They are particularly interested in the Renaissance Market Towns Initiative from Yorkshire Forward, which will see experts come to the town and support local groups to create a master plan of a package of projects for the area.

"They will target employment, industrial development, youth projects, really looking at the bigger picture.

"They will look at the bigger issues, but we want early successes as well, to get the community support."

A spokesman for Yorkshire Forward said: "We have an international panel of experts who will sit down with local people and talk about what the long term vision for the future of the area should be.

"It is an opportunity for local people to get involved with shaping the future of the town they live in, and we welcome everybody's participation in that."

The forum will hold its first meeting at the Galtres Centre, in Easingwold, on July 14, at 7.30pm.

Updated: 09:33 Saturday, June 14, 2003