08 November 2021 #Commercial Real Estate
The Localism Act 2011 (LA 2011) contains several proposals to give local authorities new freedoms and flexibility in order to protect local services and drive growth. The general power gives councils more freedom to work together with others in new ways to drive down costs. It gives them increased confidence to do creative, innovative things to meet local people’s needs.
One of the key policy goals of the LA 2011 was to give communities more power to become involved in the way local services are delivered by stimulating social, environmental and economic growth and regeneration through community asset ownership. This was intended to counter the damage that can be done to communities and community services when buildings or other amenities are closed or sold.
One of the powers included within the act is the right to bid for assets of community value. It allows communities to apply to their local council to have a building listed as an 'asset of community value'. The council can approve the listing if it considers the building's current use (or use in the recent past with a prospect of being revived) ‘furthers the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community’ and is likely to continue to do so. For instance, where pub landlords may want to sell off pubs to developers if the Local Authority lists the pub as an asset of community value, then it can only be used as a pub.
LA 2011 requires local authorities to maintain a list of assets of community. When listed assets come up for sale or change of ownership, the Act then gives community groups the time to develop a bid and raise the money to bid to buy the asset when it comes on the open market. This will help local communities keep much-loved sites in public use and part of local life. Where land is included in a local authority's list of assets of community value, it remains on that list for five years whether the community bids for it or not.
We can see that the LA 2011 has helped save pubs in the past. Grade II listed The Ivy House in Nunhead had been classified as an ‘asset of community value’ by Southwark Council which protects it from change of use and halts any pending sale until community groups have had the chance to buy the property The community needed to raise the £810,000 asking price for the pub, which is where the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) who is a registered charity, working since 1976 to promote the conservation and sustainable re-use of historic buildings for the benefit of communities across the UK, stepped in to lend £550,000 towards both acquisition and for working capital purposes
Following completion of the purchase on 15 March 2013, Ivy House Community Pub Limited launched a community share issue to enable people and businesses to invest directly in the pub to secure its long-term future as London’s first co-operative pub and community hub. Over £140,000 was raised in this way, and the business successfully opened to the public in August 2013.
Ten years on from the introduction of the LA 2011 we can see that the purpose of the act has not been fulfilled in its entirety. Although it has helped some local businesses remain in the community with either financial assistance through the reduction of business (another power given in the LA 2011 to Councils) or the protection of their use we are still seeing many community group deciding not to take ownership of pubs and them ending up sitting empty until the developers get their way.
Clarkslegal works closely with the pub sector so please do get in touch if this article raises any queries or questions and we will be happy to help.