Co-op and Locality launch their Endangered Spaces campaign to protect, support and improve 2,000 at-risk community spaces by 2022 and are calling on the British public to help identify spaces that are in need of support by using #SaveOurSpaces.
Research from Co-op and Locality 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 spaces decrease, this contributes to the pride of a community going down. Despite these effects, the UK is losing over 4,000 publicly owned buildings and spaces every year.
A £1.6m match-funding partnership between Co-op Foundation and Government is available as well as an additional £1.3m being available through the Co-op Local Community to help protect these spaces. Additional support also includes a dedicated free advice line from Locality, specialised toolkits and access to guidance from Co-op Member Pioneers.
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.
The Endangered Spaces Report, released by the Co-op and Locality today, investigates how people across the country make use of, interact with and feel about their community spaces, found that more than half (56%) of respondents feel more needs to be done to protect them. For many, community spaces are their primary method of socialising and making 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%) and having a hub where people from all ages and backgrounds can spend time in without feeling intimidated, is why they are relied on. Ensuring these spaces stay open and in good condition is essential to keeping communities together.
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%)
The availability of community spaces in towns and cities around the UK has been proven to not only make communities stronger, but safer too. Unfortunately, almost half (45%) of those aged between 25-34 have witnessed the closure of a community centre, swimming pool or playing field. What’s more, nearly three quarters (71%) of Brits could not identify if and where any investment in community spaces had taken place in their local area.
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 almost 6 in 10 said they would be disappointed if their local grass pitch was no longer available. Importantly, 45% of Brits 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 Brits 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%)
Co-op’s Director of Community & Shared Value, Rebecca Birkbeck commented: “Everything we do is rooted in our members and their communities, which is why we’ve already given £40m to over 16,000 community projects across the UK since 2016. In our Co-operate 2022 plan, we have worked with our members to focus on the things which can really help shift the wellbeing in communities, those things where co-operation will drive the change. We know that people need community spaces to learn together, play together and just be together. This is why we are making this commitment with Locality and why we know that our communities will be healthier, happier and safer places as a result.”
Tony Armstrong, CEO of Locality added: “At Locality, we’ve known for some time that many of our important local buildings and spaces are being lost. These are the everyday places where extraordinary things happen, where local people come together, access vital services and support each other. 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.”
Local people are coming together across the country to fight to save these spaces and 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. For more information or to highlight a space that needs support, visit coop.co.uk/endangeredspaces or #SaveOurSpaces