Community engagement, planning and ownership
The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 requires community planning partners to secure the participation of the public in community planning, particularly members of the community who have been under-represented in the past, or are 'hard-to-reach' for a range of reasons. A useful resource is National Standards For Community Engagement, published by the Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC). This is a guide and infograph of the seven standards and good-practice principles of community engagement, designed to build and sustain relationships between public services and community groups, and contains links to further resources.
Community planning is how public bodies work together and with the community in each council area to make life better for people. The Community Empowerment Act changes the rules about community planning to make it work better. It aims to meet the needs and ambitions of local people so the voices of local people are especially important.
Under the Community Empowerment Act, community planning partners now have to make plans for local areas which may need different things from each other. These plans describe the local priorities, what improvements are planned and when these improvements will be made. Scottish Borders has an overall Community Plan, and a plan for each of the five Area Partnerships, known as Locality Plans.
The Community Planning Strategic Board provides effective leadership to the Community Planning Partnership. It comprises Elected Members and representatives of partner organisations at the highest level. The Board meets four times a year to agree on the strategic priorities of the area and scrutinise the performance of the Partnership. You can view the meetings schedule, agendas and minutes for the Scottish Borders Council Community Planning Strategic Board.
South Of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) is one of the Community Planning Partners that works to support businesses and communities in Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway. The SOSE 2020-21 Operating Plan details the approach and priorities that SOSE is using to develop the South of Scotland region, and how it will measure and report successes.
The opportunities of community ownership are central to the Community Empowerment Act, but the prospect of taking over a property or piece of land, and manage it for the benefit of the community, can be daunting for any community group. There are a number of resources, support mechanisms, recent case studies and ongoing discussions available which can help community groups get free advice, inspiration and examples of best-practice.
Community Land Scotland was launched in 2010 as a response to the need for a collective voice for community landowners in Scotland. They hosted two webinars in January 2021 to explore the opportunities and challenges associated with community ownership in towns, delivered in collaboration with Carnegie UK Trust.
The first webinar was to share experiences of community ownership of empty and neglected properties in Dumfries High Street. The Midsteeple Quarter (MQ), Dumfries project showcase and presentation was followed by a Q and A with the MQ team. MQ also launched a fundraising campaign to help acquire more properties so that the group can achieve its ambitious plans for community-led town centre regeneration.
The second webinar was a Community Land Scotland Panel discussion which discussed key issues of community ownership in towns, and the innovative thinking that is required for community ownership to really shape the future of towns. The contributors to the discussion included Suzy Goodsir (Greener Kirkcaldy), Matt Baker (The Stove Network), Nick Plumb (Power to Change) and Dr Carey Doyle (Community Land Scotland).
Pippa Coutts, policy manager at Carnegie UK Trust, followed up the second webinar with a blog, entitled Community Ownership, Recovery and Empowerment, to highlight some of the key insights from the session.
Carnegie UK Trust started an initiative called Flourishing Towns, to support the development of innovative practice in redesigning, progressing and rethinking the role of Scotland's small towns.
Carnegie UK Trust also ran a cross-UK learning event called Community Asset Ownership In Towns in February 2020. This brought together people from across the UK who were experienced in community land or building asset transfer and ownership, to share their learning.
Power to Change is an independent charitable trust that supports and develops community businesses in England, but a knowledge of its work is also useful for understanding Scottish communities. Its January 2020 report, Take Back the High Street: Putting communities in charge of their own town centres, sets out a bold new approach to town centre revival, in the face of the continuing crisis in the UK's High Streets, even before COVID-19.