Par Running Track handover helping to build a stronger community according to Government report

A deal which saw management of Par Running Track switch from Cornwall Council to a local community group has been used as an example of best practice for building stronger communities in a new Government report.

The track's long-term future looked in doubt in 2016, before Par Track Ltd, made up of local residents, running track users and local Tywardreath and Par Parish Councillor Doug Scrafton, came forward and offered to take over its running.

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Cornwall Council then invested £220,000 in resurfacing the running track, one of only two in Cornwall, and updating other items on the site so that it was fit for the future before a 125 year lease for the site was agreed.

Since the transfer, Par Track Ltd have also taken on Par's library services, creating a real community hub at the site.

Now, a report by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government entitled 'By deeds and their results: How we will strengthen our communities and nation', has highlighted the work as an example of where devolution to community groups has proved to be a real success.

The report states:  "Par running track is a unique leisure asset at the heart of Par, Cornwall. In 2017 the future of Par running track looked in doubt. However, a dedicated group of local people came forward and approached Cornwall council to take on management of the track, securing a 125 year lease for the building and land.

"Over time the local group formed into Par Track Ltd, a Community Benefit Society, and have sustained the track as a community run green space and sports facility. The group has since expanded its role and is now securing the future of a local library following transfer from Cornwall Council, and have launched a programme to revitalise both these assets for the local community.

"This approach fits well with Cornwall Council’s wider programme of devolution, which places local partnerships at the centre of council service delivery. A monthly devolution board oversees projects devolving assets and services to city, town and parish councils and community groups, recognising the long-term social value and community capacity which is created through close collaboration with communities and local people."

Edwina Hannaford, Cornwall Council's portfolio holder for Climate Change and Neighbourhoods, is responsible for devolution to town and parish councils and community groups.

She said: "It is fantastic to see recognition for the work that went into the Par Track transfer. In an era of reducing government grants, we have had to be creative in the way we protect services while keeping council tax as low as possible, and this is a perfect example of how we can work with local communities to do just that.

"It is not just about funding though, we have already seen how local people know their own areas better than anyone, and can improve the vital services that are so important to creating a cohesive society." 

Chair of Par Track Ltd, Doug Scrafton, said: "We are naturally proud that our efforts have received national recognition in this way. 

"What we are doing demonstrates a real partnership between Cornwall Council and local people, and, as a charity, we have been able to secure funding that in these days of public spending austerity would be a serious challenge for the local authority.

"As a result, we have been able to develop a very special facility that responds to local aspirations. There is much more to be done. But we are confident that with the continued support of Cornwall Council - and perhaps with some of those funds promised in the government vision, we can achieve even more of what our community wants."