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Community Benefits

Emma Cooper

This week we have published guidance on delivering community benefits from land. In last week’s blog I outlined fours reasons that those involved in land should be thinking about community benefits.

A shared understanding of what is meant by community benefits, and identifying opportunities to deliver them, helps in setting reasonable expectations for all parties. Without that it is too easy for organisations to claim positive social impact where it does not exist, in the same way that some organisations have been accused of making false claims about their environmental impacts, known as ‘greenwashing’.

Many responsible landowners will already work to bring positive benefits to their local communities, but others are at the start of their journey in understanding and practicing responsible landownership. We hope the guidance will encourage and inspire new approaches, support responsible action and ensure land brings multiple benefits to communities.

Although the guidance can be applied to any landholding, we’re particularly publishing this guidance in response to changes in the way land is owned, used and managed and new ‘green finance’ investment to deliver net zero. Whilst we have also made recommendations for stronger regulation and policy change, there is much that can be done now in practice basis to address the risks and make the most of opportunities for communities.

So, what do we mean by community benefits, and what are the opportunities for providing them?

Community benefits are:

  • For the local geographical community that lives in and around the landholding.
  • In addition to, and alongside, the public benefits land provides, such as clean air and water, carbon sequestration, biodiversity gains and access to greenspaces.
  • Meaningful social and economic benefits that align with local strategic plans and promote the sustainable development of communities.
  • Rooted in engagement and collaboration with the community and agreed through deliberation, when possible – there is no one-size-fits-all approach, instead community benefits need to be specific and meaningful for that community.
  • Measurable and reported on, to aid transparency and support effective decision-making.
  • Proportionate to the impact of a landholding and how that landholding is used.

There are endless ways in which benefits can be delivered, but we are particularly encouraging people to think beyond just a community benefits fund (though we have included some things to consider for this approach), to the multiple ways in which communities can benefit. The Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement and Community Wealth Building principles provide a framework for considering these opportunities. These include:

·       Supporting community ownership, lease and use of land.

·       Meaningful community input into decision-making over land.

·       Creating fair work opportunities.

·       Collaborating to support local enterprise and community groups.

·       Climate adaptations.

The key to creating community benefits is that they are identified through engagement and collaboration with the community – as above, no one size fits all.

This is 'living' guidance - we know there are no fixed answers and that contexts differ significantly, so we expect this to evolve over time. There are many organisations already exploring on-the-ground approaches to community benefits who can inform our work and learn from each other. We encourage all of those to be transparent about their approaches and share their learning.

As always, we’d love to hear examples of what is and isn’t working, and our Good Practice Programme continues to advise on specific contexts and situations. Get in touch using