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Sounds really interesting Kate. We’ve been thinking of taking over a local park in the South East, but one the differences is that many of our group think the idea is quite intimidating – it doesn’t seem as simple as taking on a building. We all use/live in buildings so know generally what’s involved, but its a bit more difficult to know where to start with our local park.
One of the things we often talk about is that buildings and parks are quite different – and the logic used to support the asset transfer of buildings doesn’t necessarily apply to parks and green spaces.
One of the reasons we’re called “Shared Assets” is a recognition that it is the use of and access to these spaces which is often more important than the actual ownership of them. The council often – rightly – wants to retain ownership of its parks but transfer the management of them: and that management can come with significant liabilities, like the need for public liability insurance. So we would often start from the point of view that the kind of leases and legal agreements that are used in the transfer of buildings may not be appropriate, and that a more shared approach, between the community and the landowner, could work better.
A main difference is that it can be much easier to make money from buildings: whether through workspace, events, cafes etc. You can also control who comes into your building and have more easily enforceable codes of conduct and behaviour.
Parks are a resource that are open to all, and mean many different things to different people. The business models needed to manage parks outside of the public sector are likely to be different: you can’t charge people entry, you can’t fence of parts of the park as office space (or, at least, that would be more challenging!). Conflict is inherent in public space, with many different users using parks for different things and at different times, and managing that conflict can take resources and time.
So you may need to look at things like acquiring other assets to support the running of a park, having enough of a critical mass of space to be able to offer things like grounds maintenance services to others, being very tight about concessions and sports and fitness activities in parks.
Does anyone else have thoughts on how green spaces and buildings are different from a community ownership point of view?
Charlene here from the East Midlands.
I would like to know what the main differences between asset transfer of buildings and of parks?