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Transforming land into a community asset

Ross Miller, Chair of Dover Town Big Local partnership shares his experiences managing land as a local asset so far.

At the end of November, Local Trust and Shared Assets held a Learning and Networking event attended by 15 Big Local areas. Ross Miller, Chair of Dover Town Big Local partnership tells us about the community vision for land in his area – and how the event helped by framing some of the issues Dover Big Local are encountering.

Plans for Dover Big Local

We are currently in the very early stages of planning how to bring open and perhaps unloved spaces into use for and by the community. We have identified two sites within the Dover Big Local area, and a third just outside that are good candidates for bringing into community use.

The former two sites are in private hands: the first is an old mill pond with adjoining land and the second a former car breakers yard. In the case of the mill pond there is a dialogue between a community group, supported by Dover Big Local and the landowner. However, a difference in valuation is limiting progress.

On the other hand, the owner of the former car breaker’s yard is not in direct contact with the community. The owner’s aspiration is to develop the site for housing, which is at odds with the stated intentions and current consent of the local planning department. Again this means that differing valuations are stalling progress.

The site we are considering just outside the area is 42 hectares in size, and was previously a Ministry of Defence barracks. There is an ancient monument at its heart, Fort Burgoyne, which has enormous long-term potential to positively impact a wide section of Dover residents. We are proposing to maintain a dialogue and co-operate with the Land Trust Project Manager to ensure residents are at the heart of their considerations.

How the event helped

The initial presentations were inspiring and demonstrated what is possible with dedication and perseverance and showed that building links with local businesses can significantly benefit the community and their projects.

The morning round table discussions were informative and certainly the two I participated in helped me focus on the key considerations regarding governance, legal structures and stakeholder management.

Shared Assets support

We are very much looking for guidance and assistance in breaking the impasse between the community and the respective landowners and perhaps in getting the planning department to assist through being categorical about exactly what they will give consent to on each site.

What happens next?

If you are interested in exploring how to turn land in your area into a community asset, please read through our full support offer or contact the programmes team for further information.