Where development happens, communities want to see it work in the best interests of residents both existing and new. Many want to be actively involved in shaping that process to ensure that local needs and aspirations are front and centre.
There are multiple skills and experience in every community. If tapped into and – vitally- supported, these can form the bedrock of new stewardship vehicles such as community land trusts or development trusts. This helps develop active, engaged, and creative citizenship, with residents self-confidently playing a leading role in shaping the evolution of the community and managing assets in line with changing needs and aspirations.
Across the nation, Local Plans are making increasing reference to long-term stewardship. There is increasing recognition of the benefits that such approaches can bring to the achievement of multiple priorities, including health and well-being, active citizenship, hyper-local adaptation to climate change, volunteering and social cohesion. More practically, stewardship conversations, equitably undertaken and facilitated in a clear and transparent manner can mean less officer and member time spent in conflict management.
Developers and Landowners
Garden Village principles, which emphasise ‘community ownership of land and long-term stewardship of assets’, are being increasingly seen as touchstones for those developers which see legacy as a key component of their commercial ethos. Developers and landowners can sit on the board of development trusts, for example, underlying that commitment to long-term placemaking.
As Local Plans begin to increasingly expect long-term stewardship solutions, applications featuring its principles are likely to receive greater support in the planning process. Forward-thinking developers also see the value in early engagement with stewardship with regard to scheme viability. ‘Retrofitted’ stewardship solutions can be more costly, as well as potentially leading to conflict with the community.
The bigger picture
Long-term stewardship has a crucial role to play in sustaining locally-based responses to the ecological and climate emergencies.
Many stewardship schemes will involve safeguarding land or other assets and provide environmental benefits, including blue/green assets. These can include existing habitats such as woodland, wetland, meadows and newly created or enhanced environmental assets such as new safe pedestrian routes with enhanced hedgerows and food growing areas (allotments, community orchards). Biodiversity net gain assessments can underpin stewardship mechanisms, improve soils, and guide locally-appropriate nature recovery and enhancement.
The benefits of access to nature for mental health and well-being is more abundantly clear than ever, while green spaces can also help offset nitrous oxide emissions from traffic. Green and blue spaces can also be used to enable homes to be more energy efficient. Apart from providing renewable energy up front – such as solar panels on roofs – other measures can be inserted below ground, such as ground and water-based heat pumps or district heating schemes, that utilise green spaces to service housing areas. This can also support affordability for residents.