Neil Turnbull is currently engaged in a PhD studentship, funded by the ESRC (UK) at the School of Geography and Planning of Cardiff University. He is an architect and academic having worked at the School of Geography and Planning and the Welsh School of Architecture of Cardiff University 2015-2016, the Faculty of Architecture and Planning of the University of Chile 2012–16 and at the Centre for Urban and Territorial Research (CITU) Andres Bello University (Sanitago, Chile) 2008-2014. He has participated in state-funded research projects and published work on the processes and social impact of urban regeneration.
Based on my first-hand experience of working as a professional architect engaged in delivering community focused projects, my research and academic interests have grown from opportunities to study and develop a critical understanding of the wider macro processes that impact upon people at the micro level.
Today, a rich landscape of local participation appears to be emerging whereby communities are emerging as protagonists in the urban realm. This context allows for an exploration of the concepts and spatial implications of democracy, local engagement, commons, the public good and the mechanisms by which these new publics are being produced.
In the UK, austerity is driving the reorganization and delivery of public services and the administration of local assets with communities taking on responsibility for these key roles. Community asset transfer is one response to this situation where the management and/or ownership of public assets, such as local libraries and community or sports centers, are transferred from local authorities to local communities.
Community asset transfer can be seen as a microcosm of the move to devolve political power from central authority towards local institutions and people in an attempt to further democracy and local engagement. This process may provide opportunities for politically progressive and outward looking practices. However, viewed through a political economic lens, it might also be understood as part of a wider roll back of the state and the roll out of civic responsibilities to society.
Based on a case study approach, this project will explore the spatial implications of the everyday practices and impacts of asset transfer and the role of ‘community’ in the process. Research questions include: What is ‘community’ in asset transfer? How successful are the assets in creating community gain and in what ways? What are the local motivations behind transfer?
My research will create new knowledge by identifying whether, and if so how, Community asset transfer contributes to the direct democracy and community empowerment in the context of the shrinkage of the state and the rise of civic engagement, informing a wider debate on how the space of public goods is being produced.