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Is your asset of community value? Resisting the right to bid

28 March 2014

As part of its localism agenda, the government introduced a right to bid for 'assets of community value' (ACV). Many properties around England, including pubs, open space and commercial recreational facilities, are now being nominated. Sounds flattering, but what does this really mean for landowners?

What is the effect of a nomination?

If your property, whether land or buildings, is listed as an ACV, your ability to dispose of the freehold or leasehold interest with vacant possession will be affected. You must notify the local authority of an intended disposal, who will inform community interest groups.

There is an initial six week period during which such groups may express an interest in bidding. If they do, a full six month moratorium applies (from the original notification) during which the disposal cannot proceed. You do not have to enter into negotiations with or sell to the community interest group - the purpose is simply to give them time to assemble a bid. 

In addition, local planning authorities may treat the fact that your property is an ACV as a material consideration in any planning application for its redevelopment. This does not mean that planning permission will not be granted, it is simply a factor to be taken into consideration, including whether replacement community assets should be provided. 

What should you do if your property is nominated as an ACV?

If a Parish Council or community interest group nominates your property for listing as an ACV, you will be informed by the local authority. You need to consider quickly whether to object as timescales are tight:

  • The local authority must make a decision within eight weeks of receiving a nomination. They are not required to take into account representations made by owners, but in our experience they generally do so. 
  • If your objection is not successful, you have the right to request a review. Requests must be made within eight weeks.
  • Finally, there is a right of appeal to the First-tier Tribunal on points of law or findings of fact. The deadline for appeal is 28 days from notice of the decision.

If you do object, you should seek advice from our head of Planning & Development, Claire Fallows, on how best to present your case.

On what grounds can I object?

To qualify as an ACV, the authority must be satisfied that an actual, current (and future), non-ancillary use of the property furthers the social wellbeing or social interests (including sporting and recreational interests) of the local community. Where such a use has ceased in the recent past, the asset can still be listed if (realistically) it could re-commence during the next five years.

However, there may be grounds for objection. For example, if relevant uses are ancillary to other uses, or they do not further the interests of the local community. There are also statutory exclusions, including residential property. As the legislation is relatively new, there are few First-tier Tribunal decisions on how the detailed provisions should be applied - we are monitoring these carefully.

Never fear, compensation is here

If your objection is not successful, it is worth noting that compensation may be claimed for loss and expense incurred through a property being listed, including claims arising from a period of delay in selling a property due to a moratorium. Again, there are tight timescales, so you will need to submit any claim promptly.

Beware the ulterior motive!

A multitude of properties have already been listed as ACVs, including commercial recreational assets. Some communities have successfully used the provisions to help gain ownership of local assets once put up for sale. Yet, the breadth of the legislation means that it is being used by others as a tool to resist and delay redevelopment. Developers and landowners beware!

This article was written by Claire Fallows.

For more information please contact Claire on +44 (0)20 7427 1046 or claire.fallows@crsblaw.com