In the period 2006 – 2009, Ballymena Borough Council, now Mid & East Antrim Borough Council, made a commitment to the concept and development of Community Clusters, an “Innovative Partnership Approach with the Community and Council in Ballymena”.
By identifying four geographical areas within Ballymena and grouping community & voluntary organisations together the Council saw opportunities to improve relations between groups and other agencies, allowing collaboration, joint learning and shared resources. Their aim was to create a cohesive and sustainable community sector, ultimately leaving communities in Ballymena in a strong, future-proof position.
Ballymena Community Clusters comprises of the two urban Clusters of ‘North Ballymena Community Cluster’ and ‘Ballymena South Community Cluster’ in the centre of Ballymena, along with the two rural Clusters, ‘Bann Maine West Community Cluster’ and ‘Ballymena East Rural Community Cluster’ in the outer east and west areas of the former borough.
BANN MAINE WEST formed as a Cluster, from eight core member groups, in May 2010 and includes groups from Cloney, Cullybackey, Grange, Hillstown, Portglenone and Tullygarley.
BALLYMENA EAST RURAL formed, also in May 2010, with seven core member groups and includes groups from Broughshane, Glenravel, Clough, Ballymarlow and Kells & Connor.
BALLYMENA SOUTH was formed in January 2011 and consists of nine core member groups from the Ballykeel, Ballee and Harryville areas.
Ballymena South is the only Cluster whos Development officer is employed full-time.
NORTH BALLYMENA launched in January 2013 and consists of three core member groups from the Dunclug and Doury Road areas.
From the conception stage of the Clusters, sustainability has been a key factor in their development, this resulted in the establishing of the Ballymena Enabling Scheme.
The scheme was set up to ‘enable’ groups to regenerate and develop their communities through capital funding. Through the scheme, the Clusters have installed two wind turbines as a joint project that is hoped will generate revenue to sustain the future of the Clusters.
The Community Clusters have proven themselves to be a successful and unique model, supported by all political parties. Their existence has allowed, silent voices to be heard, alongside bringing a social enterprise to local communities and creating a strong community sector in Ballymena.