Lack of specific community asset acquisition legislation highlighted at Rural Community Ownership Conference

With storm Ciaran battering us left, right and centre on a very wet and windy 31 October we took welcome refuge in the comfortable surrounds of The Junction to host the Rural Community Ownership Conference.

A lively agenda opened with Kate Clifford, RCN who gave a local perspective and then a panel where Liam O’Hagan – Grow the Glens Philip O’Kane – RAPID, Rory O’Brien- Friends of Loughmacrory and Mairead McCormick – Glenshane Community Development showcased examples of local rural ownership in Antrim, Tyrone and Derry

Academics Dani Hutcheon and Davide Natalini from GCU & Anglia Ruskin University then presented their project ‘Policy & practice insights from the devolved nations’.

We also heard about inspiring community housing projects providing affordable homes in England, thriving community pubs and shops at breakout sessions hosted by Diane Cameron, Plunkett Foundation and Tom Chance and Paul Kelly from Community Land Trust Network.

Then some interesting best practice examples from Scotland from Linda Gillespie, DTAS including an apple juice renewable energy scheme!

Followed by Scottish Government representative Malcom Cowie gave us an insight to Community Empowerment & Wealth Building in Scotland.

The afternoon closed with Ryan Black, Mid Ulster Council who introduced plans for the development of Ballaghy Bawn and closing remarks from Sharron Russell, Dept. for Communities.

What became frustratingly apparent as the presentations went on however is the complete lack of specific legislation in here Northern Ireland compared to community empowerment rights in Scotland and England.

Lyrics from 90’s band They Might Be Giant’s ‘Not to put too fine a line on it, say I’m the only bee in your bonnet’ come to mind, as here at DTNI we are that bee. And we will continue to lobby, pester and push for government investment because as the fantastic examples at the conference showed us, investment in community ownership and community wealth building is an investment for social and economic growth!

The rural Community Ownership Conference was held by Development Trusts NI and the Rural Community Network with the support of the Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health, Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) and addressed rural asset ownership in NI. A report is being developed by GCU based on feedback submitted by attendees at this event which DTNI aim to use to further lobby government for legislation that cements community rights and empowerment