New communities need flexible use of land and buildings

Flexibility and interim use of land and buildings presents great potential in new communities, where local relationships, needs and ideas are taking shape.

Flexible and interim use of spaces needs to encompass:

  • interim use of land and buildings as developments take shape
  • flexible and adaptable buildings that can provide a base for co-locating services, voluntary groups, social enterpriseGlossary: A social enterprise is a profit-making businesses set up to tackle a social or environmental need and community activities

Too often, the default response is to provide a community centre for a new settlement, without considering the needs of the residents or how a centre will be managed over time. This is often dictated by the adversarial negotiation process set up through the Planning Acts and planning obligations usually captured in a legal agreement (often referred to as Section 106Glossary: (S106) allows a local planning authority (LPA) to enter into a legally-binding agreement or planning obligation with a property developer for the benefit of the community ). More creative approaches to exploring with residents what they need and want, and also challenging assumptions about what might be possible, can result in more exciting, relevant and sustainable alternatives.

Flexible work space at The Hub

The Hub at Kings Cross combines a traditional membership model with renting. During the day the building provides a flexible networking and hot-desking work space for members, who are chosen to ensure that they have a diverse membership mix representing an array of sectors, industries and professions. The space also contains a cafe and meeting rooms. In the evening the space is opened up as an events space for lectures and debates, as well as being available for private hire. This is also a good financial model - the user pays for access. Many more people can use the space, thus reducing unit costs and providing added benefits by bringing people together.

LIFT Partnerships - NHS Local Improvement Finance Trust

LIFT partnerships are formed between three groups: local public sector health providers, selected private sector organisations and Community Health Partnerships. They form a strategic Partnering Board to coordinate all the different needs and create an integrated service strategy.

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A good example is The Octagon, the result of five years of community led consultation and planning driven by the Goodwin Trust in Hull. In 2006 it was commended in the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors Community Benefit Award. The centre provides primary health care, a 60-place nursery and council customer services, in addition to office accommodation and conference facilities. The £5m project has become a source of local pride, and it has acted as a catalyst for further regeneration in the area including Hull's first community gymnasium, The Octagon Fitness Centre.

As identified in other sections of the website, evidence shows the important role that schools play in new communities. Where new school facilities are being created, they can be designed to share use of buildings with other family or community-related services, and to accommodate other uses, including at school holidays, evenings and weekends. This will need to be captured in agreements early on and recorded in the title deeds for the ownership of the school site.

Providing flexible spaces for community use and to support the local economy is important. New and creative approaches are being developed, such as The Hub at Kings Cross, London. Here, the organisation is using a membership model to offer users high-tech work, social and community space.