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Community Asset Transfer

27 April 2009

There is lots of interest at present in “asset transfer” projects.  The idea is that publicly-owned buildings are refurbished to a condition that enables their transfer to charities or social enterprises who can then encourage and enable their better use by the wider community.

Under the Community Assets programme, which the Big Lottery Fund administers in England on behalf of the Office of the Third Sector 38 projects have received grants of between £150,000 and £1 million to help with this.  In Scotland, there has been a lot of similar work with the transfer of the whole island of Gigha to community ownership probably being the most famous example.

Today BIG is announcing grants across the City of Glasgow to help local people generate income, upgrade a Grade B listed building and engage in employability, health and money management activities. The groups are the Maryhill Burgh Halls Trust in the north of Glasgow, Whiteinch Centre in the west of the City and Milnbank Housing Association in Dennistoun.

This should give me plenty to contribute this afternoon at a round table discussion in Stockwell, south London, where Hazel Blears, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will be launching her Department’s new Asset Transfer Unit.

BIG will have a good deal of experience to bring to the table.  One critical point is the development support necessary to make a success of these ventures.  Even when projects are deemed to be “transfer-ready” we – and the projects – have often found that they require considerable assistance if they are to transfer successfully and be sustained.

It is even more important than normal, therefore, that all of us learn from one another.  Do it well and this could be a very good time for such projects, with asset prices falling and community interest groupsflourishing.

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