The importance of land and buildings in community-led regeneration

Posted: 15 March 2021, in News

Access to land offers opportunity. A space to try out something new. A space to creatively meet the needs of a community. A place and purpose to come together, solve together and be connected. A means of furthering enterprising ambitions.

In contrast, land which lies vacant, derelict and unused stifles that opportunity. It creates a negative effect, especially where there’s a lot of it. Instead, what that land now presents is missed opportunity.

Seizing opportunities is often the stimulus for communities turning to local action. Deciding to come together to prevent buildings and services from closing. Planning to do something about already vacant and derelict spaces, to bring them back into productive use. Or through identifying there is a need in their community that they want to address.

Upper Eskdale Development Group Cafe and hub

The motives behind and priorities for community-led regeneration are specific to each community. The aspirations of the community of Aukinleck may well be very different to aspirations of the community of Alyth.

But across the board, Development Trusts Association Scotland members seek to make their communities great places to live, work, visit and do business. In a nutshell, that’s what regeneration means to our members. And access to land or buildings can be a vehicle to making those aspirations a reality.

As Vacant & Derelict Land Project Manager at DTAS, I find that the most robust argument for a community seeking access to land or buildings is when it is considered as part of a bigger plan.

Developing a new use for a building should grow from the needs within a community, for the service or facility that the saved building will home, rather than solely the desire to not see a building fall into disuse.

Just like businesses and local government, communities need to be realists in progressing their vision for bright and sustainable futures. Plans need to have solid business cases behind them.

However, the differences between community-led decision making and traditional thinking open up when a community chooses to incorporate social, environmental, health and wellbeing factors into their decision making, along with the economic reasons.

This often leads to bold decisions, which deliver solutions to one or more problem whilst bringing a ripple effect of mutual benefit on other aspects of the community’s vision.

Cranhill Development Trust’s community shop 

To sum it up, when communities gain access to land or buildings this is often a game changer. It’s when there’s a step change towards long-discussed aspirations being realised. There is now something physical and tangible for people to develop their aspirations around. A place that the
community owns, bringing security to their status.

When people begin to see with their own eyes that community power really can have significant impact, it can be the moment where a new wave of people see the benefit of investing their time and energy in their communities.

The land or building can be the platform for community development trusts to become more established, more visible, more financially sustainable and seen as more reliable, giving them a solid footing to deliver the next chapter of their community’s vision.

Karlene Doherty, Vacant and Derelict Land Project Manager, Development Trusts Association Scotland (DTAS)