Building and land ownership
Communities can make a business out of the local assets they already have.
An asset is any space that could be used by a community, either buildings or land. There are many examples in rural communities of either public assets, like library buildings or community centres, and private assets, like pub buildings, being unused or under threat of closure. Communities often see potential in these buildings and develop community enterprises to deliver services in their areas.
Libraries are a topical example of public assets being under threat of closure, and in many cases rural communities are stepping up to the mark by talking directly to local authorities (and other public asset owners) about ‘community asset transfers’ – enabling councils to dispose of assets at preferential rates in various ways, including freehold, a long lease, a shorter lease or a licence to occupy.
But private assets are often equally important to rural communities – buildings like the local shop or pub. An important distinction to make is between assets and the services delivered from them: if your shop is under threat, it may make more sense to save the service by relocating it to a different building that may be more suitable, be better located or makes better business sense. But some examples, like pubs, require the specific building from which they operate.
There is also the potential to use assets for affordable workspace for local people, and there is an increasing demand for land that can be used for community food enterprises, like community supported agriculture schemes.
If you’re interested in taking on a public or private asset, you first need to speak to the asset owner about whether this is possible. If it is, you need to look at whether the asset is the best place to locate your community enterprise and whether, as a business, you are able to sustain the asset (in terms of upkeep or refurbishment costs, for example).
The key for community assets is to be creative! You can be creative by using existing community assets, like putting a post office and shop inside a church. Or you can be creative with assets you would like to take on, such as including a shop and library within a pub owned by the community.
Get community support for your idea or read how others have reclaimed and revived local assets. Visit Village Communities to see what other communities have done with their local assets. Or check out these useful organisations: