Coopers Edge Trust

This case study shows how a dedicated community development worker can empower residents, build local social relationships and help ensure the creation of locally relevant activities.

Location: Coopers Edge, Gloucester


Coopers Edge Trust was formed in 2010, soon after the Coopers Edge development, an urban extension of around 2,000 homes on the edge of Gloucester, began. The Trust was initiated by an informal group of residents who came together during the early stages of the development to get to know each other and for the best interests of the expanding community.

The Trust represented the resident’s interests, ensuring that the provision of community facilities under the terms of the Section 106 agreement was delivered. Some of the issues that the Trust has dealt with are problems arising from its footprint falling into three local council areas. Funding for a community organiser helped overcome these issues.

Project details

The Coopers Edge development should be completed in 2019, with 1,900 homes and around 5000 residents. Delays were caused by the financial crash during 2007 and 2008. The development is owned by
a consortium of house builders who market the development collectively as Coopers Edge, which has given the site a sense of identity. The development borders two borough and district councils, with a further three parish council boundaries included within the community.

Tensions with district and parish boundaries have emerged, particularly in the early days of the development. Relationships had to be developed with neighbouring parishes that had previously opposed the development but whose footprint now included parts of the site. A Community Organiser was appointed for a year through NESTA’s Neighbourhood Challenge programme, with the capacity to attend meetings and represent the community. This role also proved essential in resolving the confusion over Section 106 trigger points, with a lack of clarity over which of the three local councils that the site falls into were responsible for various infrastructure commitments. At this early stage there were also some problems with infrastructure provision following the 2007-08 financial crash.
There are a number of groups within Coopers Edge that have evolved over the years as the needs of the community have changed. In 2008 the Coopers Edge School Parent Community Group was set up to bid to run the proposed primary school. It changed its name to The Coopers Edge Trust (TCET) in 2010. It now has responsibility for the school building and facilities, and for facilitating other groups and raising funds.

The group identified that a more informal group was needed to make sure that wider community activities continue and the Coopers Edge Community Group (CECG) was set up with its own legal identity and Trustees. This group now is responsible for empowering community members and encouraging them to be actively involved in their community.

A successful funding bid to NESTA’s Neighbourhood Challenge Programme established a temporary community centre with a full-time member of staff to help community engagement and running activities. This project ran for a year. Many community activities have since emerged as a result of the investment from NESTA, including a football club and a social enterprise that offers gardening services. Residents have also come together to run community clean up days and participate in guerrilla gardening. (2)

The aims of Coopers Edge Trust are to foster and encourage community engagement and help the community to:

• Be Healthy
• Live in a safe Community
• Make a positive contribution to the community
• Achieve economic wellbeing

The Trust has four Trustees currently and is actively recruiting more, three appointed by The Community Group and one by the School Governing body.

The Trust’s assets including a primary school and a lease on a community centre, which includes an indoor sports area and a café. Stroud Council owns the building and the Trust has an option to buy the building in the future. The Trust employs two members of staff.

Key Details


The main costs relate to the running of the community centre which has the long-term goal becoming self-funding, to generate additional funds for more activities for the community.

NESTA funding for the temporary community centre is still being used to support events. Further funding opportunities are identified when needed to run individual projects such as the community café and events.

Community involvement

The Trust seeks to position itself at the heart of the community. However as the number of Coopers Edge residents has increased, the proportion involved in activities have fallen. One of the Trust’s main objectives is to address this, one Trustee said that if more people are involved there are mutual benefits and the community is strengthened.

Who are the key stakeholders involved?

• Stroud District Council
• Tewkesbury district council
• Gloucester district councils
• Three various parish councils.

Impact: What are the outcomes? Who benefits?

The Trust seeks to be a hub, both through its physical assets such as the café and primary school and through communication, promoting and co-ordinating community activity and events. The Trust has a website and there is an active Coopers Edge Facebook group.

So what?

What are the risks and challenges for initiating and also maintaining this initiative?

There are at times problems recruiting enough Trustees, and a risk of relying on too few people to develop the Trust and help build the community.

Growing the Trust’s income so it can direct funds to benefit the local community is a fundamental challenge, core to which is increasing income from the community centre and being successful in fund raising.

The fragmentation of the site between three local authorities and different parishes means that residents often face different issues, so sometimes unifying the whole community can be hard.

Key learning

Having a resource such as a community builder or community organiser, who can help connect people to each other and to other assets and activities in an area, and tackle institutional problems. This is particularly important in a new expanding community like Coopers Edge.

Having community spaces is not enough on its own, the way that residents are encouraged and welcomed into those places is fundamental in making sure they are used and for residents to feel a sense of ownership. It takes time to develop relationships and trust between residents and between organisations and the community.

Ideally, developments should be considered as one site – irrespective of political boundaries. When responsibility is split over different councils, mechanisms are needed so that the councils take collective responsibility for negotiating and monitoring Section 106 agreements.

There needs to be flexibility to respond to economic conditions so that new residents are not left without any local infrastructure in times where wider economic circumstances put pressures on development. (2)

Source/s of information:

1. Coopers Edge Community Centre website;
2. Social sustainability: case studies from Gloucestershire, Richard Holmes;