Secretary of state Eric Pickles has called on ordinary people to help mould Herefordshire’s future.

Speaking at the Herefordshire 2020 conference at Hereford’s Courtyard today (March 2), the communities secretary said the government’s new Localism Act is giving people the power to shape their own neighbourhoods, but warned that “with great power comes great responsibility”.

The half-day conference, led by Visit Herefordshire and the Herefordshire Business Board/Marches LEP, was designed to kick-start a county-wide conversation about what the county should and could be like in a decade’s time.

Herefordshire MEP Anthea McIntyre also spoke and told the audience of more than 200 a main aim should be getting young people who leave the county in their early 20s and don’t return until their 40s or 50s to settle in the county and raise their own children here.

The message from Mr Pickles was one of 'social empowerment'.

When an audience member complained about red tape from the Highways and Environment Agencies, he said government officials with clipboards need to get a sense of perspective, but people themselves need to “kick the door down” if they want to be heard.

Speaking to the Hereford Times before the conference, Mr Pickles said there was “clearly a lot going on” in Herefordshire.

“I’ve been really impressed with the Enterprise Zone here and how very quickly it’s taking shape," he said.

“Herefordshire is in a good position because, whether you’re visiting for the first time or returning, it feels like home. It is a quintessentially English county; somewhere to be proud of."

Other speakers included MPs Bill Wiggin and Jesse Norman, headteacher of John Kyrle High School Nigel Griffiths, leader of Herefordshire Council John Jarvis, and chairman of the Herefordshire Business Board Neil Kerr.