The Localism Act 2011, which came into effect on 21 September 2012, creates opportunities for local groups to bid for buildings and land defined as community assets when the owner wishes to sell them.
The Localism Act defines an asset / land of community value if:
- its actual or current use (or there is a time in the recent past when its use) furthers the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community, and
- it is realistic to think that there can continue to be (or it is realistic to think that there is a time in the next 5 years) non-ancillary use of the building or land that would further the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community.
Groups such as parish councils, local voluntary and community organisations will be able to nominate local land or buildings to be included in the list of community assets maintained by local authorities.
The owner of an asset of community value will notify the local authority when intending to dispose of a listed asset, which will trigger a moratorium period. During this time, the community interest group can apply to be treated as potential bidders. At this stage, groups must show a local connection and must meet certain criteria specified in the regulations.
The owner will be able to begin the sale process after an interim period of six weeks if no bidder has come forward.
If a written intention to bid is received in that time, then a full six month moratorium period will take place which gives community groups time to prepare a bid. .
The sale itself takes place under normal market conditions and whilst the community group will be given an opportunity to submit a bid the owner is not bound to accept it.
Certain buildings and land are excluded, including land attached to residential property, sites covered by the Caravan Sites Act and land used by public utilities. Nor will the rules apply to a wide range of non-commercial disposals of the land, for example on inheritance.
A property will only remain on the list for five years.