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Media centre home > News> Research> Community-owned buildings add £220m a year to economy

Issued:17/07/19

Community-owned land and buildings such as leisure centres, sports fields and village halls generate nearly £220m a year for the UK, according to new research published by academics at Sheffield Hallam University.

The research, commissioned by charity Power to Change and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, is the first full analysis of the economic contribution and financial health of England’s much-loved community-owned assets in over a decade. 

The study found there are over 6,300 community-owned assets, which are making an increasingly important contribution to the economy. They generate nearly £220m a year for UK Gross Value Added and pump £150m into local economies.

The research was conducted by researchers from Sheffield Hallam's Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) and the Institute for Voluntary Action Research.

They also found there were health and wellbeing benefits associated with being involved in community asset ownership, which saves the NHS money.

But today the report's authors called for greater support to fulfil their economic potential.

Ian Wilson, lead author and principal research fellow from CRESR, said: “The findings from our research show that our community-owned assets contribute significantly to the UK economy and that this is a growth sector. Most people involved in running community assets do so in order to preserve and improve them because they are of value to their local community. However, it is important to note the research shows that although 31 per cent of these assets are in excellent financial health, the sector needs more financial support in order to fulfil its economic potential.”
 
The report, entitled Our Assets, Our Future found community assets were:
  • a valuable part of the economy – there are more than 6,300 community-owned assets in the country, contributing nearly £220 million to the economy every year
  • financially robust – despite limited resources, three-quarters of community-owned assets say they are in good financial health
  • a growth sector – nearly a third of all community-owned assets came into community ownership in the last decade
As well as demonstrating for the first time the significant and growing contribution made to the economy by community-owned assets, the research highlights areas where the sector needs more support in order to fulfil its economic potential. 

For instance:

  • Poorer areas are less likely to have community-owned assets, with the most deprived 30% of neighbourhoods1 containing just 18% of assets
  • One in five assets made an operating loss of 10% or more of revenue in the last financial year

While more rural and less deprived areas tend to have higher numbers of assets in community ownership, some urban areas buck the trend – particularly Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Southwark. That suggests the importance of creating an environment which is supportive of community ownership.

The authors are calling for a range of measures which national and local government should consider to support the growth of the community ownership sector. These include making it easier to transfer assets into community ownership, providing more business planning and general support for community organisations, and ensuring community owners have more reliable access to cheap finance and greater protections against financial difficulties.

Vidhya Alakeson, chief executive of Power to Change, said: “While many are fond of community-owned shops, parks, pubs and heritage buildings, few are aware how economically important these assets are. Now, for the first time, we know that they play an increasingly vital role, not just in the places where they’re based but in the wider economy. When communities directly own land and buildings, they can start to meet the real needs of people in their area. That’s why we need concerted action from policymakers at all levels to support community ownership.”

For press information: Polly Mosley in the Sheffield Hallam University press office on 0114 225 3224 or email p.mosley@shu.ac.uk