Launched in May 2003 at Ness Gardens, Project Rural Matters (PRM) was initiated by Cheshire Constabulary with the backing of the Police Authority.
At the time of the launch, Adele Jones, then Police Inspector with responsibility for rural areas including Neston explained: “Cheshire Constabulary, and in particular your rural team, not only wish to develop greater community safety but also improve the pride and cohesiveness of the communities they serve.”
An initial meeting convened by Insp. Jones and Sgt. Simon Blackwell, called upon volunteers to participate in a committee to identify projects that would help to achieve the aims of the initiative. Local resident and member of the Police Authority, Michael Darby, was elected Chairman of the group and, having received the backing of the Area Commander, funding was made available by Cheshire Constabulary. Over time, the committee has been augmented by, amongst others, representatives from the town and borough Councils, Neston Civic Society, Neston MTI, the Parish Church, Neston Community & Youth Centre, Youth Services and AboutMyArea.
One of numerous projects that have since been supported by the group is Speedwatch, involving local volunteers working with Cheshire Constabulary’s Community Action Team (CAT) officers to promote awareness and prevention of speeding. Speedwatch initially focused on Burton, and its success there has led to it subsequently being deployed to great effect in other areas including Neston and Willaston. PRM also provided Neston CAM with an SL700 speed gun, which several officers have been trained to use.
In another initiative, the youth of the area have benefited from grants by PRM. Carol Stott, one of Neston’s leading youth workers, obtained funding from PRM initially to set up a Neston Community Cyber Centre at Neston Methodist Church. Subsequently, a twice-weekly drop-in at the Parish Church saw numerous young people come through its doors. The grants enabled equipment such as pool and table-tennis tables and electronic games consoles to be purchased, and the drop-ins successfully provided a safe and positive environment for Neston teenagers for over two years.
With the opening of Neston Community & Youth Centre (NC&YC), the Youth drop-in relocated there. NC&YC itself has been supported by PRM, with, amongst other things, funding for external security cameras.
In a separate youth-oriented project, co-ordinated by Neston Civic Society, Neston High School pupils were invited to submit designs for a mural to be painted on the walls of the subway under Neston Railway Station. PRM provided funding for the materials, and the winning design, by Ben Twells of Burton, is now in place. In 2010 a new graffiti mural was created by youth from NC&YC under the guidance of Andy Birch from North Wales, jointly funded by PRM and Connexions.
PRM have also supported Neston’s Stanney Fields Park, providing funding for cycle training for young people during school holidays, and assisting with the finance for a Street Cage Soccer programme.
Funding has also been made available for the installation of security cameras at Willaston Memorial Hall.
In 2019 Michael Darby stood down from the group, having been chairman from its inception. This was the last PRM of many set up by Cheshire Constabulary. Later in 2019 the organisation closed.