Important buildings are at the centre of many communities. The most obvious example is the village pub which has been under threat for many years. We frequently receive calls asking what can be done to protect these important community assets however the call often comes too late.
If you believe a building needs protecting then it helps greatly to take steps to protect it before it becomes apparent that it is at risk of being lost. Property whose current or recent primary use ‘furthers the social well-being or social interests of the local community’ qualifies for protection provided that it is realistic to think that the property has a future for that purpose. The protection can be obtained by applying to the local authority for registration as an asset of community value.
The provisions apply equally to land as to buildings. In the case of land, registration as a town or village green is another powerful means of protection.
Once registered as an asset of community value, restrictions apply to disposals, giving local community organisations the chance to buy the property. Either before, or once a property has been registered as an asset of community value the community then needs to work on positioning itself to be able to buy the property if it becomes available.
A commonly used vehicle is a Community Interest Company in which members of the community can buy a share and in return get a say in how the company is run. They cannot be used to further the interests of its directors or shareholders but exist to serve the community. It can be a challenge to raise the money required to buy an asset of community value so early planning is essential to avoid losing the opportunity. It is often surprising how formerly keen members of the community can be less forthcoming once it comes to investing money in the project! Good, early planning is essential to avoid difficulties. We can go beyond simply dealing with the transfer of the property and assist with the formation of the community interest company and the practical steps that need to be taken to ensure the process is as smooth as possible, and most importantly, successful in protecting your community.