A mass transfer of ownership of empty shops, buildings and public spaces to communities and local businesses is the only way to achieve the government’s levelling up aims, a new report finds.
‘No Place Left Behind’, the final report of the Commission on Prosperity and Community Placemaking, calls for a new Community Right to Buy giving communities the power to buy empty or derelict buildings, and for dedicated ‘improvement districts’ to reinvent town centres and residential neighbourhoods – all backed up by a £2bn Community Wealth Fund to support the most left behind places to develop their own solutions.
The Commission was set up a year ago to promote the best ideas for regeneration in ‘left behind places’ and ensure that the ‘levelling up’ agenda delivers on the government’s promises.
Toby Lloyd, former special adviser to Theresa May, and chair of the Commission said:
“Throughout the work of this Commission we have heard from people in left behind places that they feel failed by the state and the market. They feel the loss of vital places such as community centres, pubs, parks and libraries every day.
“To replace spirals of neighbourhood decline with a virtuous circle of wellbeing and prosperity we have to invest in the physical fabric of local places and the social fabric of local communities – and trust communities themselves to lead it. No place should be left behind.”
The report also outlines a blueprint to restore and renew left behind places to make them cleaner, greener and safer, by planting trees and reclaiming streets and public spaces from traffic.
It says many towns need to be put on a ‘road diet’, replacing dual carriageways in town centres with tree-lined boulevards and public spaces, and calls on the government to fund a new generation of trams and buses to connect local places.
It suggests places should be judged on the ‘tricycle test’: if small children can safely ride their tricycle around it’s almost certainly a good place to shop, access services, or meet friends.
And to meet the net zero carbon target it calls for a new wave of funding to retrofit homes in left behind places, with community housing associations and local people leading this work in place of absentee private landlords whose poor quality homes often blight left behind neighbourhoods across the country.
The APPG for ‘left behind neighbourhoods is co-hosting the launch of the report on Monday 20 September.
Paul Howell MP for Sedgefield and co-chair of the APPG for ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods said:
“As an APPG we’re committed to supporting and developing practical policy solutions that help build community confidence and capacity, delivering improved social and economic outcomes for people in left behind places. This new report from the No Place Left Behind Commission proposes a number of powerful and vital recommendations to achieve just that, and specifically helps us to consider how the streets we live on and what we find there can have a big impact on a community’s opportunities and outcomes.”
Karin Smyth MP for Bristol South and an officer of the APPG for ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods said:
“This report demonstrates how essential community involvement is in shaping local regeneration plans, particularly in ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods. It suggests there is a wealth of untapped knowledge and skills in communities that could and should be harnessed to help make better planning decisions in the future, improve the social fabric of places and empower local people.”