-Development Trusts Association

Response to the draft London Plan and accompanying Economic Development Strategy from the London region of the Development Trusts Association

[ alternative version PDF, better for printing DTA submission ]

The London members of the Development Trusts Association (DTA) welcome the London Plan’s recognition of the difficulties faced by the community and voluntary sector, in particular in relation to accommodation [Policy 3.17 and para 3.84 (page 87)]. We also welcome the focus on the importance of Social Infrastructure to the creation of viable communities and the recognition of the importance of Quality of Life issues.

Asset-based social enterprise offers sustainable, cost-effective solutions

As asset-based social enterprises, we are committed to sustainable, income stream-backed, delivery of community-based solutions.  Community enterprise is an effective business model that utilises local knowledge of supply, demand, assets and capacity to create a sustainable business that brings wealth into a community and keeps it there.

In London development trusts are part of a wider third sector employing 7% of the capital’s workforce, we believe that the importance of this sector and in particular the role of social enterprise innovators like our 58 members and associates, is under-recognised in the Economic Development Strategy and should be actively promoted by the Mayor.

The Social Enterprise Coalition recently conducted the State of Social Enterprise Survey which showed that, since the economic downturn, 56% of social enterprises have increased their turnover, with less than 20% seeing a fall.  This is in comparison to small and medium enterprises, of which only 28% have experienced an increase in turnover, with 43% seeing a decrease.  Community enterprise is sustainable.  The business model focuses on the Triple Bottom Line of ‘people, planet and profit’, combining earning money with social and environmental gains. This offers real change for communities, through its roots in enterprise and economic sustainability.

A significant sector for London now and in future

We feel that the complete disregard of social enterprise as a business model in the Economic Development Strategy is an oversight. This is a model that is currently being promoted at a policy level by all major parties, while on the ground the success of such delivery is proven in London, where development trusts already manage assets worth over £135 million and deliver services that reach almost one million Londoners every year, including many of those from some of the capital’s most excluded communities.

Members of the Community Alliance (a partnership of DTA, Bassac and Community Matters) in London are involved in a wide range of income-generating activities, from managing retail property, through leisure, affordable housing, catering, training, childcare, recycling, employment support, parks and gardens, and community transport.  The Community Alliance recently conducted a survey which shows that respondents in London earned over £44 million in the last financial year.

Community-based social enterprise is an empowering model which is very much about finding new solutions to age-old issues of inequality, poverty and worklessness in London. Our work is already making a real difference to families and communities and we represent a fast-developing alternative to traditional models of intervention or assistance.

Communities taking responsibility

Development trusts are about communities taking responsibility and finding solutions and as a result we are also well-placed to deliver around issues of sustainability from the bottom up, quickly, effectively and with far reaching impact.  We feel that this is an area that the London Plan and Economic Development Strategy could address more directly though a statement of support for community-based solutions and a commitment to support such innovations, both from a planning perspective and perhaps through a pilot fund, which could be based around a lowered interest loan finance model.

Community enterprise creates sustainable social infrastructure

Effective community enterprise can play a powerful role in the creation and maintenance of social infrastructure.   Development trusts would like policy 3.17 [Protection & enhancement of social infrastructure] to be amended to reflect this.  The existing paragraph 3.84 hints at the role such organisations can play but would benefit from a more explicit statement in support of the virtues of transferring under-utilised or disregarded assets into the community sector – ‘the asset transfer agenda’ as it sometimes termed.

Finally we welcome the London Plan’s commitment in Policy 4.9 to the idea of “planning obligations support[ing] the provision of affordable shop units suitable for small or independent retailers”. Many of our member Trusts work actively to promote and assist such businesses and prioritise partnerships with small and local businesses in order to re-circulate more of their expenditure within the local economies they aim to support and enrich.

We would therefore like to suggest that this policy be slightly amended to make more explicit the administration’s support for social and community enterprise by also referring to these sectors as potential beneficiaries of planning obligations. However we suggest that such benefit is best delivered through the provision of community-owned and managed assets where suitable organisations exist to be able to take on this role, as set out in the DTA manifesto. Where they do not, there may be a role in promoting and nurturing such innovation, given the additional benefits that asset-backed community providers have been shown to deliver to their local communities within London.

Looking forward to a Community Allowance that could transform London

The DTA supports community enterprises throughout England, and London is a key area of growth. Our full manifesto addresses key issues of national and regional policy which could enable radical innovators like ourselves to transform disadvantaged communities like some of those in London.

In particular we wish to draw attention to the potential offered by a Community Allowance as a bridge between combating worklessness and securing active and productive community participation. We suggest that if such a policy is either adopted nationally, or enabled for piloting regionally, London should be an enthusiastic trialist of this and other social enterprise solutions which offer communities opportunities to innovate and to turn social capital into real capital for common good. We hope that the Plan and Economic Development Strategy could be amended to reflect support for such an outcome.

Chris Bailey, London Region Chair Development Trusts Association

& Regeneration Manager at Westway Development Trust

For more information please contact:

Linda Damerell

London Regional Development Manager

Development Trusts Association

3rd Floor CAN Mezzanine

49-51 East Road

Old Street

London N1 6AH  l.damerell@dta.org.uk tel: 0207 250 8053

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