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Co-Op and Locality Commit to Protect Community Spaces

Our sister organisation in England, Locality, and Co-Operative UK have collaborated on a new campaign, Endangered Spaces, to protect, support and improve 2,000 at-risk community spaces by 2022.

Their report has identified a link between improved wellbeing and areas where community spaces such as cafes, community centres and playgrounds are easy to access, whilst the data also indicated that in areas where community space has diminished, community pride also decreases. Despite these effects, the UK is losing over 4,000 publicly owned buildings and spaces every year.

New findings that show thousands of valued community spaces, including playgrounds, parks, leisure centres and libraries, are being sold off each year for private use and this new campaign empowers people to help save these spaces from extinction; demonstrating co-operation in practice.

For many people, community spaces are the primary places to socialise and make friends (58%). This is particularly true for three quarters (73%) of 25-34-year olds, who have made friends at a community space. Half of respondents said they rely on a community space to exercise and keep fit (50%), a figure that rises to 6 in 10 when looking at data of those aged over 55. Community spaces also provide a safe area (48%) where people from all ages and backgrounds can spend time in without feeling intimidated.

An overwhelming number of those surveyed said they had happy memories of spending time at community spaces with friends, family members or on their own. Three quarters of those asked look back fondly at times they’ve spent at their local parks, while nearly two thirds say they reminisce of happy times at community swimming pools.

Most valued community spaces in the UK:

  1. Parks (66%)
  2. Playgrounds (59%)
  3. Libraries (57%)
  4. Leisure centres (53%)
  5. Youth centres (52%)
  6. Community centres (49%)
  7. Grass pitches (48%)

Previous Co-Op research has shown that parks and green spaces have a positive impact on communities and have been proven to deliver health and wellbeing benefits. Families (63%) and friends (56%) use these spaces the most, but grass pitches are also commonly used by social and youth clubs for group activities. Those aged 16-24-years old are most likely to have made friends at grass pitches (65%), and 45% of respondents would be willing to give up personal time each week to support or save the space.

Top 5 cities where the local park holds a strong memory for residents:

  1. Liverpool (84%)
  2. Belfast (82%)
  3. Birmingham (79%)
  4. Bristol (77%)
  5. Edinburgh (76%)

Similarly, leisure centres are considered incredibly important assets to the community and almost two thirds (64%) of people surveyed revealed they have made friends while spending time at their local facility.

Top 5 cities where the leisure centre is most considered an important hub:

  1. Belfast (77%)
  2. Bristol (69%)
  3. Plymouth (67%)
  4. Nottingham (65%)
  5. Newcastle (63%)

Findings from the report indicate that as a nation, libraries are hugely valued in local communities. Half (50%) of people up and down the UK spend time at their local library each week, and over three quarters (77%) of parents with children living at home say libraries are an important asset in their community. A staggering 70% of those surveyed feel their local library could use extra funding or government support.

Top 5 cities with libraries that are most in need of investment or support:

  1. Sheffield (33%)
  2. Glasgow (33%)
  3. Plymouth (30%)
  4. Belfast (29%)
  5. Leeds (29%)

Locality CEO Tony Armstrong said, “At Locality, we’ve known for some time that many of our important local buildings and spaces are being lost. Through this campaign, people will come together across the country to fight to save these spaces, by taking them into community ownership.  These groups are committed to protecting them as a vital hub in their community and a space to offer services for the whole community. That’s why we’re working with Co-op to save our much-loved community buildings and spaces from being sold off for private use. We will protect, support and improve community spaces over the next three years, demonstrating co-operation in practice. Together we can save community spaces from extinction.”

For more information visit the Co-Op website.

Endangered Spaces full report

Together We Can Save Community Spaces From Extinction – Toolkit 1

What You Need to Know Before You Can Start – Toolkit 2