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27 March 2012

Hebden Bridge to host national Ambitious Communities conference

Town Hall
A major national conference, looking at how communities can transform their neighbourhoods by owning and managing local land and buildings, is to take place in Hebden Bridge on Friday July 6th.  The event, Ambitious Communities:  Transforming Community Assets, will be one of the first to be staged in Hebden Bridge’s new Waterfront Hall, opening in June.

The conference reflects the upsurge of interest in new ways of protecting key public resources at a time when local authorities are struggling to find adequate funding for their work.  Participants will have a chance to discuss the implications of the government’s recently-passed Localism Act and to hear from community organisations across the country who are taking a lead in this area.

National figures who will address the conference include Ed Mayo, head of Co-operatives UK, and Steve Wyler, chief executive of Locality.  Also taking part will be Peter Couchman, chief executive of the Plunkett Foundation, the organisation which is advising groups on how to save local village shops and pubs by turning them into community-run ventures.

The location of the event, in the conference facilities which have been constructed at the rear of Hebden Bridge’s historic Town Hall, is particularly appropriate.  Hebden Bridge is one of the first towns in Britain where the Town Hall is directly community-owned and managed, following a pioneering asset transfer from Calderdale council in April 2010.  Following the transfer, Hebden Bridge Community Association successfully raised more than £3.4m to enable the construction of major new community and enterprise facilities.   The story of this inspiring example of direct community engagement in protecting a public building will be shared in a workshop by the Community Association’s Andrew Bibby and Calderdale Council’s director for communities Robin Tuddenham.

The Ambitious Communities conference will explore community land ownership as well as asset transfer of buildings.  John Earnshaw, a professional advisor to the Community Land Trust movement, will be participating in a workshop with Pam Warhurst, the inspiration behind the nationally celebrated Incredible Edible Todmorden initiative.  Sally Hinton will tell the story of the successful establishment of a community-run shop in the hilltop village of Midgley near Halifax – appropriately enough in the village’s former cooperative shop premises – which was partly made possible by inviting local residents to buy shares in the venture.  Jim Brown, a national adviser to Co-operatives UK and Locality on the growing use of community share issues, will also be present to share his knowledge.

The conference is a joint initiative of Locality, Calderdale Council and Hebden Bridge Community Association.

Steve Wyler, chief executive, Locality says:   “This conference is a fantastic national opportunity to bring together everyone passionate about community asset ownership. It’s a chance to share ideas, best practice and inspiration and hear from the people who have created some amazing asset transfer success stories – including several Locality members. This conference is the main event of 2012 for anyone involved in community assets.”

Jerry Smith, trustee of Hebden Bridge Community Association says: “We have, we think, a fascinating programme for the day with some first-rate speakers and workshop leaders.  We’re particularly pleased at the opportunity to show community activists, policy makers and politicians from across the country what we have managed to achieve in ensuring a long-term sustainable future for Hebden Bridge Town Hall as the centre of our town’s community life.”

Cllr Janet Battye, Leader of Calderdale Council says: ““For me this has always been about giving power to local people. I was enraged a few years ago when we couldn’t stop the Council selling our Adult Education Centre and vowed that it wouldn’t happen again. This led to the asset transfer of Hebden Bridge Town Hall and its redevelopment. It’s encouraged other people to think about what they want for their community – real localism in action !”

Following the conference, delegates are invited to stay on in Hebden Bridge to enjoy the activities of the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival, which will be reaching its finale that weekend. 

In order to ensure that as many as possible will be able to attend, delegate fees have been kept at £125, well below the levels set by commercial organisers of day conferences.  A further reduction, to £95, is available for those from community groups and social enterprises.

More details and the booking form



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