As part of the Government’s empowerment agenda, Blears has announced a new single advice line – 0845 345 4564 – and other Government support to make it easier for people to take control of community assets, from community centres to theatres.
Driving this revolution in the public sector, there are a range of options for local councils to give people real power including handing over buildings as a gift to a community group, selling at below market price, or keeping the building off the market while a local project develops their plans and secures the funding.
Already, there are estimated to be more than £1billion worth of buildings under community control – with some agreements dating back to the 1970s.
But from now on, taking on a local building should become easier. As well as a new single national advice line for anyone wishing to find out how to do it, Blears highlighted key projects that have set the standard – including Coin Street Community Builders in London and the Goodwin Development Trust in Hull – that anyone wishing to do it could learn from.
A new Asset Transfer Unit will give local people the information they need to get through any planning, legal and financial barriers.
Blears said: "Local people have been leading a revolution to recycle buildings for the community, particularly during the downturn.
"We want to help more local people get their hands on local buildings so they can put them to work for the community. For too long, too many have not even seen it as an option. And when they have it has felt like an endurance test.
"We want to change the odds in their favour, and for them to know that taking the first step could be a simple phone call. From today the national advice line, backed by experts at local and national level who have been there and done that, can help guide people through the financial, legal and planning barriers.
"It is more achievable than people think to recycle a building."
This ownership of local public buildings typically involves community centres, former schools or old town halls. But it doesn’t stop there – other projects being developed include theatres, a cattle market, a medieval barn and a former toilet block.
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