The Localism Act 2011 gives significant new rights and powers to local communities. These help ensure that local people and groups have a real opportunity to actively shape and influence the community facilities and services that underpin our everyday life:
The Community Right to Challenge enables the community to submit an ‘expression of interest’ in taking over a local authority service that we believe could be run more effectively by Haslemere Town Council or other community and voluntary groups. Examples could include parking within the town and youth services.
The Community Right to Bid can be used to protect buildings and amenities that play a vital role in local life by allowing the community to nominate them for registration as ‘assets of community value’. When registered assets come up for sale or change of ownership, the community is given time to develop a bid and raise the money to buy the asset when it comes on the open market. Assets that we could register include sports/recreational facilities (e.g. The Herons), cultural amenities (e.g. Haslemere Museum), youth centres (e.g. Wey Hill Youth Campus), health centres/hospitals (e.g. Beacon Hill surgery), open spaces (e.g. Wey Hill Fairground Car park, Lion Green), pubs and shops.
The Community Right to Build allows the community to propose small scale, site-specific, community-led developments. Examples could include a youth facility, an arts centre or a housing association development to provide affordable housing.
Such initiatives will of course only succeed in the long term if there is sufficient community support to fund the initiatives and to staff and sustain any new facilities or services. However, if we fail to take advantage of these new rights we will have less scope and opportunity to create or protect valued community assets or set up new community organisations to run local activities and services. This means that the future of our town will depend largely on the decisions of external authorities.
Do you favour using these new rights for the benefit of the community? Do you have ideas for specific projects that might benefit our local facilities and services? Let us know what you think and help determine the future of Haslemere – we look forward to your suggestions!
Look out for next week’s article in which we will discuss the future of our roads and streets.