Community, Ownership and Land Reform
PEDAL aims to bring a range of valuable physical assets – such as land, buildings, or renewable energy infrastructure – into community ownership. This will support the process of re-localisation and the creation of a more resilient Portobello. By owning and controlling such assets our community can:
- Be sure those assets will be used in ways the community needs and wishes them to, both now and in the future;
- Make a wider range of services and opportunities (e.g. better meeting spaces, low cost work space/studios, more recreational opportunities, more jobs) available in Portobello;
- Generate income by trading, for example through letting office space, selling locally-produced food, or selling electricity to the National Grid. This money could then be reinvested in other local projects.
- Enable us to improve the local area, for example the appearance of key local buildings or areas of land, and maintain it better;
- Have a renewed sense of pride in being part of a community that owns its own assets.
In 2008 we began developing plans for a multi-purpose community facility that would also act as a demonstration of cutting-edge environmental technology. We named this concept the ‘Transition Hub’. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we didn’t secure funding to develop the Transition Hub further.
However, PEDAL remains committed to helping secure modern, available, flexible space for local groups that is built to high environmental standards, and we want to work with others to make this happen. In fact, we’ve recently been approached by Portobello Community Centre Management Committee to feed into their plans for re-developing the centre.
We’d also like to kick off the process of examining, as a community, what the Town Hall should be for and whether it is really being used to the maximum benefit of the local community. Can we – should we – bring the Town Hall back under community control? This is something that other local groups would need to support and be involved in, but we are happy to start the discussion!
We think that the Town Hall is under-used, is not a very flexible or available space, and is a bit expensive to hire. We think it could be better used to enable a whole range of ventures to flourish right at the centre of the community – for example a cinema club, a monthly farmers market, and more gigs!
One way of making all this happen is to press for a change in legislation and in the approach taken by local government and other public bodies to managing local assets. For example, we would like to see:
- The council and other public bodies begin to transfer assets to community organisations at less than market value, where this would bring significant benefit for the community;
- The extension of the community-right-to-buy legislation to cover urban communities as well as rural ones. This would enable us to register an interest in, and have right of first refusal over, property that comes up for sale and could be used for the benefit of the community.
Although our immediate focus is on helping to regenerate and strengthen Portobello’s local economy, part of our wider interest is in pushing for changes that will enable all communities to receive the support they need to relocalise.