Civic Voice, the national organisation for civic societies, staged a half-day regional event in Bristol on Saturday March 29th to raise awareness of what can be done to help protect community assets. The speakers included Stephen Williams, Minister for Communities, Griff Rhys-Jones, President of Civic Voice, and Bristol Mayor George Ferguson.
Recent localism legislation recognises community assets of social value, whether or not they are buildings of architectural merit. It allows communities to nominate such buildings and other assets to go on a ‘local list’ of valued assets, so that this can be recognised if development is considered at a later date. Another part of the legislation allows communities time to bid for such a building if it comes up for sale.
These are legislative tools for communities to employ. Griff pointed out that taking over a community asset requires much more than this – a well-managed community action group, with a sound business plan, and which has the trust of the community, politicians and business owners. Some of the other government legislation relaxes constraints on development, and he expressed concern that the localism provisions were something of a PR stunt.
But the tools are there to be used, and other speakers explained how to use them. One third of the assets nominated so far are pubs, and a speaker from CAMRA described the organisation’s active involvement in this.
The event was held at Trinity Arts Centre in Old Market, itself a community asset. Simon Birch, vice-chair of Bristol Civic Society welcomed attendees from across the south-west.