Pulling to­gether to pre­serve com­mu­nity as­sets can pay off

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

Yet our plan­ning sys­tem now pro­vides the op­por­tu­nity to save lo­cal fa­cil­i­ties, which is felt to be par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant in ru­ral ar­eas where ac­cess­ing ev­ery­day ser­vices can be dif­fi­cult.

What con­sti­tutes a com­mu­nity as­set is wide-rang­ing, al­though most res­i­den­tial properties are deemed ex­empt. Not sur­pris­ingly it in­cludes pubs, as there is a gen­eral recog­ni­tion nowa­days that th­ese can form the heart of a com­mu­nity, pro­vid­ing a lo­ca­tion for lo­cal groups to meet in ad­di­tion to so­cial­is­ing.

The al­lo­ca­tion process is re­mark­ably sim­ple. Nom­i­na­tions can be made by es­tab­lished bod­ies such as parish coun­cils or most groups that have a con­nec­tion with the lo­cal­ity.

Coun­cils must then con­sider the pro­pos­als and carry out a con­sul­ta­tion ex­er­cise. The build­ing own­ers them­selves are al­lowed to make an ap­peal on the de­ci­sion to list and seek com­pen­sa­tion on any loss in­curred as a re­sult.

How­ever, as this is still rel­a­tively new leg­is­la­tion many are un­aware of their rights. De­ci­sions are usu­ally made within eight weeks from re­ceipt of the nom­i­na­tion.

While own­ers are un­der no obli­ga­tion to dis­pose of their build­ing, when they do even­tu­ally de­cide to sell it gives the com­mu­nity group six months to come up with a bid. This ap­pears to be one piece of Govern­ment leg­is­la­tion set to prove pop­u­lar with a slow but steadily in­creas­ing take up through­out the coun­try. One such place is the small vil­lage of Bam­ford in the heart of the Peak Dis­trict where, in com­mon with many ar­eas, the tra­di­tional vil­lage pub has been in a steady de­cline over the last decade with two out of the three pub­lic houses hav­ing closed.

Recog­nis­ing the im­por­tance of “the lo­cal” a small highly or­gan­ised and ar­tic­u­late group of res­i­dents mo­bilised to cre­ate the Bam­ford Com­mu­nity So­ci­ety.

They suc­cess­fully ap­plied for com­mu­nity as­set sta­tus to be ap­plied to The An­glers Rest, the last re­main­ing pub that had been strug­gling for a num­ber of years un­der a suc­ces­sion of short term land­lords.

With am­bi­tious plans to cre­ate a true com­mu­nity hub they have re­cently had their of­fer to buy the free­hold ac­cepted by Ad­mi­ral Tav­erns.

How­ever, any groups em­bark­ing on such a jour­ney should take note. Ob­tain­ing the com­mu­nity as­set sta­tus is only the first step. What comes next can be a long and ar­du­ous process with many hur­dles to over­come.

Eigh­teen months of meet­ings and plan­ning seemed wasted by the ac­cep­tance of a last minute ri­val bid from a prop­erty de­vel­oper leav­ing the BCS and many vil­lagers dev­as­tated.

How­ever, af­ter rais­ing in ex­cess of £180k through share op­tions and se­cur­ing ad­di­tional com­mer­cial bor­row­ing they weren’t about to give up. A last push in­volv­ing ex­ten­sive me­dia at­ten­tion and sup­port from around the world re­sulted in the brew­ery re­scind­ing the sale to the de­vel­oper.

Now, in ad­di­tion to the tra­di­tional pub, their plans to have a café that opens at the crack of dawn serv­ing break­fast for a lo­cal bunk barn look set to be­come a re­al­ity. Cru­cially, they have also saved the lo­cal post of­fice, which is to be in­cluded within the same build­ing, so you will soon be able to en­joy a pie and a pint while ap­ply­ing for your pass­port.

Com­mu­nity As­sets, whether by de­sign or chance, plays to the great Bri­tish strength of pulling to­gether in times of ad­ver­sity.

Jonathon Win­field is MD os Acan­thus WSM Ar­chi­tects, Leeds, www.acan­thuswsm.com

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