Community wealth building is an inclusive approach to growth that aims to empower local areas and their residents by prioritizing land use for the common good. Thanks to funding from RTPI’s Practitioner Research Fund, Tim Moss has independently researched the implications of new community wealth building policy in Scotland. “Places, Land and Community Wealth Building in Scotland: An Overview”reviews the existing policy landscape and finds recommendations for further expansion and improvement.
As a theory, community wealth building offers an inclusive form of growth, designed to build agency and resources for local areas and their citizens. Applied to land and planning, this municipalist movement could re-prioritize land use for common good.
Adopted this year, the fourth National Planning Framework (NPF4) is the first instance of a national planning document to mention Community Wealth Building. This, with the rollout of the Community Wealth Building Bill and the glut of local council measures, shows a potential shift in policy ambition in Scotland. And with the bill proposing a requirement for many public bodies to consider community wealth building in their strategic plans, understanding the extent of the shift is key to understanding future community-led approaches in Scotland.
“Places, Land and Community Wealth Building in Scotland: An Overview” is published today (21 June) and takes a look at the effect of the policy measures so far, both on communities and the staff enacting the new powers.
What is the research about?
Over the course of 18 months, my research aimed to explore the implications of local and national policy around community wealth building. This involved a review of all existing national and local authority policy, a survey of over 233 local authority staff and follow up interviews with another 20 practitioners.
The aim here was to look at how current approaches to community wealth building could be enhanced or improved by incoming policy. Furthermore, the survey and interviews aimed to understand any barriers and the perceptions of its effectiveness by those delivering the policy at local level.
The review of existing policy identified six key clusters of policy within the land element of community wealth building. These, detailed below, ranged from pop-up shops and other socially good uses of existing assets, through to developing initiatives for community-led housing and greener local construction. To achieve the kind of radical change the approach calls for, the research carried out found the following changes would be needed:
- Self-initiating on council strategy – the policy review and survey of perceptions found that when councils self-initiate a CWB approach, their staff are more likely to be buy into the process than initiated through a funding proposal.
- Aligning with anchor institutions – understanding common goals between under-engaged local economic actors is key. This was also true internally within councils, where awareness of community wealth building was high among economic development and planning but less known elsewhere.
- Widening participation in the process – increasing public participation in the assets in their area was crucial, and can only happen through the championing of cooperatives, development trusts and other community-centred organisations in the local economy. Greater resources and undoing of legislative barriers would enhance this goal.
- Reform to competitive bidding practices – clear, consistent funding allocated at local level to proven community groups was seen as a means of giving community stakeholders the chance for further involvement in the planning process. Community practitioners interviewed often lacked the resources to engage in the planning process on top of their daily duties.
The aim of the policies advocated for and the findings above are to provide a framework for planners and local authority staff to understand the policy approach more holistically as the approach is embedded in future Local Outcomes Improvement Plans and similar documents across the public sector.
Though the first round of consultation into the bill has passed, new opportunities for improving practice in community wealth building will emerge. Local authorities will be considering the policy as part of the rollout of the new-style Local Development Plans, which requires to them to take into account community assets and wealth building priorities. How this policy will be enacted remains to be seen, but it is up to communities to ensure that their ‘wealth building’ priorities are heard during this process.
For a full summary of the research, the report has been published and is available here.
This summary was originally presented to the People in Place Network on the 31st of May. If you would like to join SURF’s People in Place Network please email firstname.lastname@example.org