Transforming your community isn’t rocket science – get involved!

Transforming your community isn’t rocket science – get involved!
Sarah Eustace from DTA’s Asset Transfer Unit
Social Enterprise

The Asset Transfer Unit is launching the second round of its Building Community programme – supporting communities to take responsibility for land, buildings and services that are being transferred to them by councils and others to deliver broad-ranging community benefits.

The Unit serves as an established Centre of Excellence and is supporting around 700 Local Authorities and Community Enterprises to progress community asset transfer projects throughout England at present.

With cutbacks in public resources and pressures to use land and buildings more effectively, statutory bodies are considering how to reap efficiencies whilst maximising the community benefit derived from their diverse asset portfolios.

A large number are seriously considering the potential to transfer assets and services into community ownership and management based upon established good practice.

Building Community offers expert support and publishes real-time practice online ‘grand designs style’ – through practitioner-led video case studies. It aims to raise community aspirations, promote good practice and disseminate advice and support to others interested in progressing community asset transfer projects.

The programme provides a platform for participant organisations to engage with their local community, develop fundraising campaigns linked to community share issues, and to highlight solutions to the challenges they encounter along the way to benefit others interested in getting involved with comparable activity elsewhere.

Ultimately, Building Community is concerned with the day-to-day practicalities of building the ‘Big Society’ – empowering communities to develop plans based upon local knowledge and shape places for themselves.

Lights, Camera, Action! Six new film projects will be made during 2010-11 about the transfer of assets into community ownership through the Building Community programme. Bedfordshire: The Bromham Millers intend to regenerate the Bromham Mill and take over its running and ownership from Bedford Borough Council.

The Mill, which sits on the River Great Ouse, has a long history of flour milling since Saxon times. Its restoration includes plans to revive milling, a bakery, workshops, cafe and a drop-in centre. In addition to the Mill the Bromham Millers are setting up a Community Craft and Education Centre and creating a craft venture.

Coventry: the City Council is engaged in supporting the transfer of the Haggard and Allesley Park Community Centres with support from the Advancing Assets Programme. They have developed an Asset Transfer Working Group consisting of council officers from its property, neighbourhood management, health and safety, and legal departments plus Voluntary Action Coventry, and Coventry and Warwickshire Co-operative Development Agency, to develop their asset transfer strategy Cumbria: the Marsh Street Arches and Gardens CIC in Barrow-in-Furness, aims to transform a derelict piece of land into a community garden – the Green Heart Den – and is also seeking to develop the vacant land beneath nearby railway arches into community and youth facilities. The CIC is also working with Barrow Borough Council, as part of the Advancing Assets for Communities programme, to explore the potential to transfer adjacent land from the Local Authority to Marsh Street Arches.

Leicestershire: the Highfields Community Association is working with Leicester City Council to transfer ownership of the centre to the association as part of the Advancing Assets Programme. HCA already provide social, educational and recreational activities to local residents. Services and facilities it offers include arts, sports, and community outreach services.

Newcastle: West End Women and Girls Centre. Participating in the Community Assets Programme, The West End Women and Girls Centre and Newcastle City Council are working together to extend and refurbish the Stephenson Building that is currently being used to address the needs of women and girls in an area of multiple deprivation. The refurbished centre will provide a community facility for the whole community, regardless of gender, to access core services, training and employment opportunities, and an essential social space.

The centre will also provide the local authority with community consultation and engagement facilities Worcestershire: Hartlebury Castle, the former Bishop’s residence near Kidderminster in Worcestershire, is being purchased from the Church Commissioners by the Hartlebury Castle Preservation Trust – to preserve the building and grounds for future generations, enable the Hurd Library to remain within, and deliver wider community benefits.

The Trust plans to transform the building into a vibrant space to be enjoyed by nearby communities, as well as for visitors to the area from further afield. It is receiving expert support and advice from the Asset Transfer Unit, and will be filmed over the next 12 months whilst planning and fundraising work is carried out The Building Community project, managed by the Asset Transfer Unit, is now in its second year and provides access to a wide range of video case studies – offering practitioner support to those involved, or looking to get involved, in community asset transfer.

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