Bristol’s Community organisations unite to protect Bristol’s shared spaces

8 Mar, 2024

‘Roots of Resilience: Saving Community Spaces’ is a city-wide campaign calling for urgent action to protect and enhance Bristol’s shared spaces which currently face a multitude of existential threats.

The campaign has launched ahead of a silver motion being raised at full council on Tuesday evening (12 March), calling on the council to follow a scrutiny enquiry and adopt a positive stance towards asset transfers and community management.

Supported by sixteen community organizations, this initiative is a call to action for urgent measures to safeguard and improve Bristol’s shared spaces, which are currently under threat due to various challenges, including legislation facilitating council property sales to address budget shortfalls.

At a time of political change in our city, and when the financial status of councils nationwide is under scrutiny, the campaign highlights the need for the process underpinning decisions on council-owned buildings to reflect their importance as the connecting fabric of our communities.

The manifesto, compiled by leaders from organisations from across the city and representing the city’s diverse communities, calls for several changes to ensure community buildings are appropriately valued.

In addition to publishing the manifesto, the leaders of the community organisations have been inviting members to visit their local community organisation and share what their local space means to them, by adding a memory, word, sentence, or feeling to a ribbon. Collectively, the ribbons will be tied to existing structures rooted in community organisations to demonstrate the qualitative impact, and how much these spaces mean to Bristol residents.

Steve Sayers, CEO of Windmill Hill City Farm, said:

“Unfortunately, without changes to how decisions are made about community infrastructure, the future of those spaces will always be at risk. The suggestions we are putting forward will enable us to secure a brighter future for our much-loved community spaces.

“We welcome the silver motion that will be put to Council on Tuesday evening, and we ask that any enquiry and future reviews are done in consultation with us, the community organisations that are running this vital spaces and have drawn up this manifesto, given our first-hand experience and knowledge of operating these spaces.”

Stacy Yelland, CEO of Eastside Community Trust, said:

Our proposed steps will enable Bristol to lead the nation in safeguarding community infrastructure. In many respects we are already ahead of other authorities, and with the One City Plan we already have a commitment to increase community involvement in managing social infrastructure.

“By incorporating our asks, we can demonstrate a model of positive cooperation and community engagement which works for all Bristol’s communities.

Emma Harvey, CEO of Trinity Community Arts, said:

The choices we make now in response to the challenge of preserving civic and cultural infrastructure in the face of financial uncertainty is a decision that will have lasting consequences for future generations, and this is why it is vital that we take steps now.”

Details of the proposals can be found in the full Manifesto, but these focus on the following actions, around facilitating community-ownership and ensuring the perspectives of communities are heard during decision-making processes:

  • Review the Community Asset Transfer (CAT) process, to enable more community organisations to consider this route.
  • Adopt a target and strategy for increasing the number of community owned assets, in line with the One City Plan.
  • Delegate leadership for community assets to a member of cabinet or committee, recognizing the sector’s role across council departments.
  • Delegate authority to officer level to award CAT leases, for 95 years, when these are up for renewal.
  • Include representation from Neighbourhoods and Committees in the CAT decision-making committees.
  • Create a framework for protection and disposal of council owned assets, including creating a new ‘community’ asset class which prioritises preservation of community spaces.
  • Implement a fair rent structure which recognises the social and investment benefits of community-owned assets.
  • Develop a capital investment strategy for organisations with CAT leases.

Share your thoughts and feelings about what your local community space means to you, by writing on a ribbon or sharing a word, sentence or memory.

Ribbons for signing are available at the following community anchor organisations across the city, Windmill Hill City Farm, Redcatch Community Garden, Voscur, Easton Community Centre, The Island, and The Hub in Lockleaze. For those unable to attend in person; sayings, thoughts, and feelings can be submitted to be added to a ribbon via social media using the hashtag #CommunityRoots.

Image: Sporting Memories meets every week at Easton Community Centre.

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