Creating space for community control
March 16, 2011
Slashed council budgets are leading to more public spaces being placed in the hands of local people. Clare Goff looks at a new guide that explains how it’s done
As public sector spend dwindles, the transfer of assets from the public to community ownership is growing. While buildings are the most common assets moving into community hands, the benefits of public space transfers are becoming more apparent.
Transfers range from huge swathes of open land to small local plots and are a means not only of revitalising green spaces but also of building and reinvigorating communities.
In 1999 Torbay Council set up a charitable trust to manage almost 500ha of its land, a move which dramatically increased volunteering. Northamptonshire Council worked with many organisations to help create a series of ‘pocket parks’ across the borough managed by local people.
England has a strong tradition of community stewardship of green spaces and new legislation, a move towards the Big Society and increased demand for local food-growing sites is likely to fuel further interest in community takeovers of land.
Cabe Space and the Asset Transfer Unit have produced a booklet to guide local authorities and community groups through the process of transferring public spaces. Community-led Spaces: A Guide for Local Authorities and Community Groups sets out the issues involved in transferring public space assets, explores the opportunities and constraints involved in different types of public space, and highlights best practice for community groups and local authorities considering asset transfer.