The Old School Hall in Sneinton is just one of the 4000 public buildings and spaces that are being disposed of every year by Councils up and down the land. Think of the number of Starbucks coffee outlets there are... then multiply by 4.
In it's "Save Our Spaces" campaign, Locality is attempting to support "the local people who are fighting back."
"They are coming together across the
country to save these spaces, by taking them into community ownership.
"These groups – usually small voluntary organisations and charities –
are committed to protecting them as a vital hub in their community and a
space to offer services for the whole community. And they are doing
this with little or no help from anywhere else – with just the power of
community on their side."
The first step that Locality are encouraging is to register "Assets of Community Value", and that's what we have done with the Old School Hall (read about it here
). The second step is to consider taking on "community ownership" of these buildings, to ensure that they continue to offer services to the local community, and in turn offer greater viability for the organisations that take them on:
"...for those local voluntary organisations that take on these spaces
it can mean greater financial sustainability and capacity to adapt to an
ever changing funding environment. And these spaces offer vital hubs
for local people that they exist to support."
Locality recognise that there are times when a private sale might be the most appropriate course of action, but urges that credible community ownership plans are considered first and that community benefit is not ignored. In the case of the Old School Hall, the Asset of Community Value status protects the building from sale to a commercial bidder for a short period of time, but after that it will for sale on the open market. The ACV status will form a 'material consideration' if planning permission is required in the future, but essentially the building and site could well end up in private hands with no real influence from the community over what it is used for.
No doubt community ownership is hard work: communities need to find resources such as money & professional skills that private developers have at the ready. Locality argues that the current 6 months moratorium time that gives communities a chance to get their acts together needs to be extended to a year, and that Councils should step forward with interest free loans to enable community groups to get started.
Locality also argues that the benefits of community ownership are profound, from giving local people a chance to shape the place they live, to delivering services that meet local needs and accessing funding that Councils cannot reach.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments, or over on Facebook
. Passionate about the future of the Old School Hall? Then please, please take action!