Watch out all owners of pubs! New planning laws mean that land and buildings which are of “community value” cannot be sold without local communities having the opportunity to bid for them. You may well ask what the meaning of “community value” is and will not be surprised to learn that it could mean just about anything as it encompasses social wellbeing or interests of the local community. Cultural, recreational and sporting interests are included within this definition, so a pub, common land and community centre can all fall squarely within the regime.
The designation process can begin at any time with a community body nominating a property as having “community value”. The council analyse the nomination and notify the owner who can object. If listed, the listing lasts for 5 years after which nominations can be made for re-listing.
Once listed, an owner who plans to sell the land must notify the council. If a community group are interested, then the owner will not be able to sell the land for upto 4.5 months to allow a bid to be launched. Only then can the owner deal with the property as they choose. On the plus side, compensation is available if the rules have caused the owner any loss or expense.
The real pain of the new rules will be the nuisance value caused by the moratoriums. Community groups who wish to hinder the sale of local assets can do so by having them listed. After that, the group does not have to prove that it has any chance of putting together a serious contending bid to purchase the property but still a 4.5 month moratorium will apply. Even for the community group, benefits are uncertain as there is no requirement on the owner to sell to the community group even if it manages to put a bid together. With this in mind, it remains to be seen whether the new rules provide a gun for local pressure groups or a chalice for the community to genuinely savour.