Public, private and charitable landowners encounter different challenges when managing their assets, depending on the site(s) they own, their budget, goals and obligations.
Sharing assets with the local community can make land more productive and sustainable, and create benefits for both landowners and the local area. The potential benefits are wide ranging:
With tight budgets and competing priorities, environmental assets can drain scarce resources. Community management of land can reduce costs, or be cost neutral, whilst improving the value of a site.
- Community enterprises can attract new forms of funding to a site.
- Community enterprises are able to develop new activities and income streams associated with a site.
- For public landowners, income generated by a community enterprise can be directly reinvested back into a specific site, not spread across central budgets.
- Community enterprises can attract volunteers, trainees and apprentices, allowing more intensive management of some sites.
IMPROVING ASSET QUALITY
With increasing budget cuts, many publicly owned environmental assets are at risk of becoming undermanaged. Community enterprises can reanimate these spaces, increasing their value and improving their environmental quality.
- Communities can deliver management obligations agreed with landowners.
- The site can be managed with greater attention and intensity, improving environmental quality, biodiversity and recreational value.
- New activities such as training, timber production, food growing and energy generation can be undertaken on the site, adding to its value.
- Local community members can offer technical skills not in the landowners’ workforce.
Landowners’ management obligations often sit alongside wider objectives that may or may not be associated with the asset itself. By sharing land with the community, assets can become a catalyst for wider social, environmental and commercial benefits.
- Often using traditional, low impact methods, community enterprises can manage land in a more sustainable way.
- Sustainable food growing, renewable energy generation and other sustainable activities can be undertaken on site and generate income.
- As well as improving assets’ environmental quality, community enterprises can promote environmental awareness in the local community.
- Community enterprises can improve public access to, enjoyment of and engagement with the site.
- Community enterprises often direct their training, volunteering, apprenticeship and engagement activities to vulnerable, disadvantaged or isolated groups.
- Delivering services, products and programmes on the land, social cohesion and a feeling of local ownership can be developed.
- Local enterprises bring together local knowledge, networks and enthusiasm for the site that it is often hard for landowners to generate.
- Bringing local people together to spend time outdoors can produce mental and physical health benefits.
- Maintaining sites and delivering sports and recreational programmes on the site can achieve public health objectives.