#CATJRF: Ownership of assets is tempered by the extent to which you have control…

Ballybot House is one of the earliest examples of Community Asset Transfer in Northern Ireland. It’s an old warehouse type building in the centre of Newry in an area that was once called Poor Town… the name is an anglicisation from the historic dialect of the Irish spoken in the south Armagh area of Baille Bocht…

Having an asset changes your relationship with the wider community. The responsibilities that come with it, not least in the case of Ballybot the need to meet mortgages and to provide leadership and manage the investment over a twenty year period…

It was not the first target for a consortia of community groups in the City. A lot of preliminary work was put into an initial plan to redevelop the old market place as a community asset which failed at the end of a long process. But much of that preparation built the capacity to pull off an attempt to procure and develop the current building from the private sector.

Bradley point out that the acquisition and maintenance of a physical asset also demonstrates reliability and creates confidence in future development… Lessons can be learned and implemented in later stages of the project…

In the case of Ballybot, particular skills were acquired in restoring a building with specific heritage that allowed them to create a second building, raised from scratch was specified with particular uses in mind, and build with modern materials at the same time keying in architecturally with the original building…

One take away from my interview with Bradley was ‘ownership’ is always tempered by the extent to which you also ‘control’ the asset.

In other words, if, as a community organisation, you are going to take responsibility for a building you must make sure you have full control of the assets. Rights of way, and other inherited features can alter the kinds of deal that it is wise for any community organisations should to strike.

Indeed if the parameters cannot be switched it may pay to go for a minimal rather than a maximal deal with whomever you are seeking to transfer the asset from.

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  • marlaghman

    If anyone gets a chance to go and see this DT it is well worth the visit, and Archie well just to here him is enough?

    Renton Community Development Trust
    InThe village of Renton in the Vale of Leven near Loch Lomond, population 3000

    Archie Thomson MBE, Chair of the Trust, sums up the ethos of the work across Renton:

    “We change people not just their environment. We don’t just build houses, we build community and develop local assets. Poor architecture, inappropriate houses and services destroy community. By working with local people and using local knowledge we are re-populating this village. Local people can feel proud to live here: we might not be as affluent as some but we have a cultural wealth that is more valuable.”


  • Mick Fealty

    Thanks MM… I’ve just been jawing on Twitter with an intelligent sceptic on the worth of such non profit enterprises, especially when they are cycling a lot of public money.

    There was an appeal today from Elma Newberry of NIHE was really pushing the importance of measuring impacts. And there seemed to be a shortage of answers.

    How do we quantify the returns?

  • cynic2

    Why do we need to transfer the assets?

    Why not grant a long term condition lease? That protects the public interest and allows the third sector enough flexibility to operate commercially

  • Mick Fealty

    It doesn’t always result in the transfer of real estate. Ballybot was a transfer of private rather than public assets. Shaftesbury Leisure Centre is a community management deal, and as Maurice Kinkead notes, the Victorian swimming baths in Templemore Avenue are run by user groups.

    It was also mentioned at the Seminar on Thursday that the Carnegie Library in Oldpark has been let go (the one in the Falls is still a statutorily run library). The fabric of the Oldpark building is decaying and it doesn’t have much value that can be realised in a depressed market.

    It’s since (Thursday) been the subject of some limited discussion inside at least government agency