Press release

New report: community-led economic development

Our analysis of the first government-backed programme of community-led economic development for 30 years finds that there is a strong and growing desire for local control over the economy, but community groups lack legitimacy and power in the planning process.

Unlike conventional approaches to local economic development, which centre on economic growth and are led from the top down, community economic development (CED) is a process that is led by local residents and focuses on generating wealth and jobs that stay local.

From local fishermen in Eastbourne coming together to purchase and develop the harbour to a community organisation aiming to give local people a voice in regeneration in inner-city Manchester, we have led a two year programme supporting 71 communities across England to develop and implement plans to shape their local economy.

Our report on the programme finds that CED is a way to give people real power in the local area and interest in the approach is growing in the context of calls for more ‘control’ in local areas and the reduction in inequality.

“We welcome Co-operatives UK’s report on the Community Economic Development programme. It demonstrates the engagement and interest of communities across England in developing ideas to stimulate growth in disadvantaged areas.”  Department for Communities and Local Government

The report also highlights that the most effective approaches to CED focus the community’s energies on taking control of a particular asset or building on existing local plans to transform processes not previously working for the local community.

However, it also concludes with three challenges that need to be addressed to make CED more effective on implementation.

  • CED plans do not always align with conventional measures of economic development.  For them to cut- through a shift is needed in what is measured, from single growth measures to wider well-being and local wealth.
  • CED plans can be overlooked. They should be embedded within wider policy processes like Neighbourhood Planning and LEP planning, and could be given a statutory footing, to ensure it has legitimacy with stakeholders who held power or mandate.
  • CED plans take time. It is important that there is sufficient time and resources in place to develop and implement CED plans.

“There is a groundswell of support for an economy in which people have more power over the decisions that affect them, whether that’s housing, jobs or local high streets. Community economic development has the potential to be truly transformational, offering an effective tool to turn the inclusive growth agenda into practical action.

What we have learnt, though, is that for community economic development to be effective some fundamental changes are required. In particular, community-led economic plans need to have a legitimate and recognised place in the way that local authorities and other decision-making bodies approach economic development so that the community’s vision can form a key part of the strategy for the local economy.”

Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK

 The community economic development programme was funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government, and delivered in partnership with Locality, New Economics Foundation, CLES and Responsible Finance.


Case study: Eastbourne Fisherman’s CIC

Eastbourne Fisherman’s CIC was set up to fill a gap in local economic development, which the community felt did not take into account the needs of the local small-scale fishing industry which provides around 200 skilled jobs in the area.

In order to create a sustainable future for Eastbourne’s fishing industry, a group of fishermen formed an organisation to purchase and develop the land by the Waterfront in Sovereign Harbour to create a Fishermen’s Quay. It will allow them to develop a facility that will enable the fishing fleet to produce their own ice, process their own fish and shellfish and thereby add value to their product, as well as supply directly to local customers including schools, the council, hospitals, residents associations etc.

Working with local residents and businesses, the group developed a CED plan, and on the back of that levered in funding from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund to enable the development to go ahead.

For Graham Doswell, a third generation Eastbourne fisherman and director of Eastbourne Fishermen's CIC, fishing is part of the heritage of the town.

"I'm a fisherman and my father was a fisherman, just like his Dad before. I've been fishing since I was a toddler, going to sea with my Dad when the weather was good. It's a skilled job – hard work, dangerous, long hours. I never really thought about doing anything else, to be honest."

“Fishermen have never occupied a powerful position when it comes to local decision-making. We need CED as previous development strategies have not delivered the changes needed for the local fishing fleet and the community it supports. Fishermen need to be better able to plan for the future and contribute to the area they live and work in. A well-connected local economy can deliver positive outcomes on many levels, and fill the gaps where previous development strategies have failed to be inclusive, connected or locally supported.”


Download the full report on the community economic development programme here