Preston Council transfers Travellers’ site into co-op management

‘A key part of our commitment to community wealth building is to encourage greater democratic ownership and management of local assets’

The co-operative model is being used to preserve a Travellers’ site in Preston, after its future had been thrown into doubt.

A full meeting of Preston City Council agreed to adopt the Leighton Street site after Lancashire County Council decided to dispose of it – leading to fears it would be sold, its rents increased and residents forced to move.

Residents will be invited to join the newly established Leighton Street Co-operative, which will take on day-to-day management and operation of the site.

The co-op plans fit in with the ‘Preston Model’ ethos of the city council, which for several years has been running community wealth building initiatives to boost the local economy and increase democratic ownership, and is part of the Co-operative Councils Innovation Network.

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Travellers have been living at the site for more than 30 years. It is one of three sites across the county for the Traveller community established by Lancashire County Council in the late 1980s and the families are well integrated into the area, with their children attending local schools. 

A recent decision by Lancashire County Council to dispose of the three sites raised significant concern for their future but, as an alternative to selling, Lancashire offered Leighton Street to Preston City Council.

With support from a local support group and from Preston’s Cooperative Development Network, community representatives proposed that if the city council adopted the site, it would be run by a co-op.

Preston Council leader Matthew Brown said: “The Leighton Street community’s proposal was very well received by the city council.

“A key part of our commitment to community wealth building is to encourage greater democratic ownership and management of local assets. Co-operatives – business enterprises owned by their members – can play a key role in this. The readiness of the community at Leighton Street to establish their own co-operative to run the site provided a very good fit with the council’s own approach and long-term principles.

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“Discussions are now underw ay between the city council and the Leighton Street Co-operative on the necessary arrangements for the management and operation of the site once the formal transfer is complete. We will also be providing some support to establish the cooperative as a legal entity and provide training to its members in key areas of responsibility.”

John Gavin, Leighton Street site manager, added: “Thank you to Preston City Council for adopting the Leighton Street site – we appreciate all the hard work that has happened to make this possible, after the unfortunate delays due to the pandemic. 

“Everyone on the site is extremely grateful this has been agreed, allowing us to return to normality knowing the future of the site is secure. We are also very thankful to the support we have received throughout this period of uncertainty from the community, local businesses, and police.”

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