Governance of public community space and facilities

Chaper 5 – Topic Policies

Section F – Implementation

IMP4 Governance of public community space and facilities

Development proposed within this Local Plan will deliver a variety of what can broadly be termed public community space and facilities which – in this context – includes open space, indoor and outdoor sports provision, community buildings, venues for art and the voluntary sector, SuDS features and areas around these features and, potentially, the verges next to footpaths and roads.

How this provision is delivered and maintained has a direct impact on the quality of a place. In the past, the Council has generally been successful in securing and managing, with our partners, community space and facilities from developers. This has greatly improved the quality of life for the Borough’s residents and ensures that Ashford remains an attractive place to live, work and visit – a key objective of the Council as referenced in its Corporate Plan.

Although expanding such provision to cater for the new development proposed in this Local Plan clearly delivers many sound planning benefits, it does also create operational and financial challenges for the Council given the pressures on Council budgets. The same is true of our public sector partners. This pressure is unlikely to be eased, certainly in the short to medium term and in fact is likely to be increased, meaning a dynamic and innovative solution needs to be applied to ensure that both the right level of provision is secured to meet need, and that it is managed to a high standard so that the quality place aspirations are sustained.

With such public sector financial constraint, there is a real potential that the quality of community space and facilities is undermined through a lack of resources, particularly if it relies on the public sector adopting and taking full responsibility for the long term stewardship. Furthermore, such a total adoption role provides very limited opportunities and incentives for local communities to have – and maintain – a stake in their area and help develop a positive sense of place.

The Council’s preferred position in recent times has been to not adopt new community space and facilities that come forward in response to development proposals. This remains the case.

Instead, the Council favours stewardship models as a means of ensuring ongoing management of community space and facilities. Such models take various forms, including community management companies, charitable trusts; Parish Council led models, community development trusts, community interest companies, and co-operative or community benefit societies.

The exact form of model will be dependent on local circumstances, the stewardship functions transferred, the extent and type of assets to be managed and the types of financial arrangements needed. Developers will be expected to endow new stewardship bodies with both assets and cash where practical, the latter of which should be at a level at least equivalent to a ten year commuted payment period.

The Council accepts that these sorts of models may only be suitable where there is a sufficient scale of development to create a natural community focus or where there is sufficient scale of on-site community space and facilities to manage. In certain circumstances, smaller schemes could also adopt such an approach, particularly if there is sufficient space and facilities nearby which could be taken on by a joint governance arrangement.

Where a proposal is not suitable to deliver the community based model envisaged above on account of its lack of size or facilities being delivered and / or its proximity to other developments does not allow for a more holistic approach, then a private management company solution might be considered acceptable.

Where this is the case, proposals will need to demonstrate that the private management company proposed will:

  • be run in a way that ensures residents have and retain a key governance role,
  • maintain openness and transparency,
  • be focused on the local development and the maintenance of the environment in the longer term with surpluses reinvested for such purpose,
  • provide a quality service at a reasonable cost over the longer term,
  • allow for residents to take control in the longer term should this be their ambition.

In certain circumstances, such as the adoption of community space and facilities that will form provision within a strategic hub (see policy COM2) or where the Council currently plays a governance role and want to retain this role, then the Council could be the adopting body. In these circumstances, financial contributions will be required towards the management of community space and facilities, for not less than a ten year period.

Given the importance of the issue of governance, all schemes that will deliver substantial levels of community space and facilities will be required to produce a governance strategy that will set out the specifications and details of the facilities to be delivered and how these will be managed and maintained over time. For larger schemes, this will also need to set out how the early governance arrangements will work in practice given that community space and facilities might be delivered before a community is fully established.

Policy IMP4 – Governance of Public Community Space and Facilities

Proposals that will deliver substantial community space and facilities are required to be supported by a governance strategy which will need to be agreed with the Council. This strategy will need to set out what facilities are to be delivered and by when, and how they will be managed over time to an acceptable standard.

Proposals which adopt a community stewardship model of governance will be supported.

Should a private management company model be promoted, then it will need to be established and run in a way that is affordable, gives the residents a key governance role and is focused towards the management of the facilities to be delivered by the development.

Where the Council takes on an adoption role, financial contributions will be secured from the developer towards the maintenance of facilities for at least a ten year period.

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