Report stresses importance of public space in Big Society plan

The Government must protect public spaces and organisations that support them to stimulate public engagement in the "Big Society" agenda, according to a recent report by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES).

Big Society: Social Action & the Role of Public Space, published in partnership with environmental charity Groundwork, highlighted the role that public spaces take in encouraging social action and developing "citizenship skills".

The report said that public space development programmes encourage social skills such as political knowledge, understanding planning and funding streams and partnership working.

However, a greater understanding of community motivations was needed to maintain public willingness to engage in social action, the report stated.

Report author and CLES senior consultant Stuart MacDonald said organisations that facilitate and support open spaces at a local level must be protected in order to create the Big Society.

"There are tough decisions to be made, but local government must not be short-sighted," he added. "If local civil society organisations such as Groundwork disappear, it will close down routes towards a Big Society.

"Obviously there won't be the same level of funding, but environment and public space is a way we can involve everyone in society."

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