Assessing the viability of a stewardship approach
Any stewardship approach chosen for a new community must be properly assessed to ensure that there will be adequate future income for the scheme and that the practitioners and residents involved in managing the neighbourhood have the right skills and support to fulfil their roles.
The Academy for Sustainable Communities (ASC), now part of the Homes and Communities Agency, was involved in assessing the feasibility of various stewardship plans for a development in Waverley, South Yorkshire. The 300 hectare area, owned by UK Coal, is the proposed site for around 4,000 new homes. During the development of the master plan for the site, the ASC worked with a number of partners, including English Partnerships, ATLAS, the social enterprise sector and the Development Trusts Association, to consider the types of services that could lend themselves to management by the community.
The feasibility plan resulting from the investigation recommended the establishment of a Community Trust to oversee a range of assets and services, including community transport, a Combined Heat and Power system (CHP), open spaces, community development and commercial land holdings. However, despite the report’s recommendations UK Coal decided not to adopt this stewardship model.
You can download a podcast of a round table discussion about the merits of community governance, made by the ASC here.
Community managed stewardship models, such as development trusts, are not new, but they are still relatively uncommon in this country. Barriers to their creation remain but these might not necessarily be based on financial concerns, i.e. that a Community Trust would not be able to generate sufficient income. In some cases these barriers are cultural, and relate to concerns that a Community Trust’s members might not have the skills or capacity to manage assets well, or simply concerns about adopting a relatively untested approach. In cases where a community managed stewardship approach is financially feasible, but where other concerns remain, development partners may wish to work with national agencies and organisations like the ASC and the Development Trusts Association to overcome these cultural concerns.