Community bus service is just the ticket for South Northamptonshire

A community transport service providing a lifeline to isolated communities continues to grow thanks partly to grants from South Northamptonshire Council (SNC).

Published: Friday, 20th September 2019

In January 2019 the ABILITY Community Transport was launched with a £50,000 SNC Community Grant, with one driver and one minibus serving Horton, Hackleton and Piddington. The minibus has been specially adapted with disabled access to a high specification in order to enable inclusivity to all users of the service.

Since then parish councils across the district have made their own grant applications to bring the service to their communities. Ability now has three buses and drivers and is serving over a dozen communities with more on the way.

Nigel Hinch created Ability (Northants) CIC with wife Lynn and said: “We’re still enjoying it. You get to realise people do become isolated and get stuck in a routine.

“The fact we can vary routes and respond to customer needs means we’re forever going places they haven’t been to for years and it’s lovely to see those memories re-awakened.”

Initially focussed on transporting villagers from the east of the district into Northampton, Ability is now serving Brackley and Towcester and their surrounding villages and is taking people in to Banbury.

They also provide one-off trips at request to garden centres and out of town shopping venues across the region including Bicester Village, Rushden Lakes and Beckworth Emporium.

Last month SNC approved £500 grants each for Culworth, Thorpe Mandeville and Paulerspury Parish Councils to bring the service to their communities.

Cllr Karen Cooper, SNC’s portfolio holder for wellbeing, said: “Tackling rural isolation like this has clear benefits to the quality of life for people in the district.

“Ability made promises they would expand the number of communities they serve, and it is very pleasing to see those promises fulfilled.”

A wide range of projects and activities may be eligible for SNC Community Grants, including capital projects (buildings and infrastructure), as well as smaller projects such as supporting the purchase of much-needed equipment or the delivery of local community services.