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4,000 public spaces sold to private developers a year, with just a fraction saved

York Road Library, Leeds, now a private gym.

4,000 public spaces including parks, libraries and swimming pools are sold to private developers every year – with a ‘tiny fraction’ transferred to community ownership, according to new analysis published by the Co-op and Locality on Wednesday (March 18).

The two organisations have published a report that highlights the scale of the problem and have called on the government to establish a national strategy for community ownership including new funding and legislation.

For the report, they sent Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to 353 local authorities to reveal that less than 350 buildings and spaces are being transferred each year to community ownership.

The FOI results also show that less than half of councils have a strategy to support community ownership, which the Co-op and Locality says demonstrates the ‘significant lack of planning and a short-term approach’ to decisions about public buildings and spaces.

Locality and the Co-op are in partnership to help save 2,000 endangered spaces by 2022.

Paul Gerrard, campaigns director at the Co-op said: ‘In the weeks ahead we will see the compassion and power of strong communities but the very spaces which creates and nurtures that strength is are under threat.

‘Our unique Community Wellbeing Index, which collates data from 28,000 communities across the UK, shows that there is a direct link between wellbeing and the lack of spaces. When people have less opportunities to interact with each other there is clearly an impact on health.

Tony Armstrong from Locality said: ‘At a time when we are facing huge uncertainties and challenges, we are seeing now more than ever just how much we need strong, resilient and powerful communities and local organisations.

‘This research shines a light on the pioneering local authorities who have been supporting communities to take on ownership of much-loved buildings and spaces over the last five years, providing the roots for community action to flourish and growing networks of mutual support and connection within our neighbourhoods.

‘Community ownership can provide a sustainable foundation for vital community infrastructure and local services, and can make sure we have the inclusive and sustainable community spaces we need for generations to come.’

Photo Credit – Sam Hirst

Read the report here.

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