Communities urged to use Localism Act to save green space

The Government would like to see more people to apply to get green spaces listed under the community right to bid scheme to protect them from sale, a parks event was told this week.

Speaking at Burgess Park, south London on Wednesday the deputy director of big society and community rights at the Department of Communities and Local Government, Ben Llewellyn said that of the 556 assets currently listed only 100 were green spaces.

Standing in for new junior communities minister Stephen Williams who cancelled after being called in to the House of Commons to vote, Llewellyn said the Government "was making it easier for communities to take control over the places they value and love."

He praised the parks which had won Green Flags and the community organisations involved.

Llewellyn was not the only speaker coming from a volunteering and big society viewpoint at the Local Environments Matter event co-hosted by the London Borough of Southwark and Quadron Services.

Fellow speakers Groundwork chief executive Sir Tony Hawkhead, Jeremy Iles, chief executive of the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, Phil Barton, chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy
and Rita Clifton, chair of The Conservation Volunteers, all represent charities built around volunteering.

Hawkhead raised the question of when something is an asset transfer and when a liability transfer.

While Illes said: "What we're really interested in is the emerging trends in the green space sector. There's no point bleating on about austerity, we are in it. Let's move people from being passive to being active."

Dave Morris of the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces raised the question of funding.

"When will they recognise the crisis the government cuts are causing throughout the entire country because of cuts to public services?" he asked. "When will they make sure that there's a statutory duty to maintain public green space to green flag specifications?"

Llewellyn said the Government's view was that it had put legislation in place to protect community assets and that it only took 21 people to get together to protect a green space.

The connection between health and green space was also discussed at the event.

The community right to bid allows land or buildings which have been listed on a register of 'assets of community value' to be protected from sale for six months.

This time is a breathing space to allow a community to develop a bid to buy the asset on the open market.

The right was introduced as part of the Localism Act 2011 and focuses on ownership of the asset rather than long-term maintenance.

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