I hope that the Pub Field has been saved from building for a few years. The shareholders of the Pub recognised the value of the land to the community without 10 houses and a car park on it. They voted to have no building on the land. Whilst the new board is in situ I don’t think that the village needs to worry about the events of the last few months happening again for a while.
What can the village do if the same thing happens again? Board members can change and shareholders can change and with a few resignations and the appointment of some bullish individuals there may be another vote. This time it may go against keeping the field as a green space. I believe that one way to keep the space green is to register the land as an asset of community value. The village can then bid to buy the land provided the value can be raised. This will provide cash to the pub and the preservation of a green space for the community in the very heart of the village. Even if the money to buy cannot be raised immediately the village will get 6 months to try and raise the purchase price. Hopefully it will be a reasonable amount; about the amount that needs to ensure the continuation of the Sorrel Horse as pub, rather than the one million pounds that I believe was suggested previously.
What does it take to register? Well you need at least 21 members of the community to get together to raise a request to the local council. This can be done online. If accepted the plot will remain on the register for 5 years from point of registration. Sometimes this is done by a Parish Council. I am assuming that the committee, which would need to be formed to register the land, may will wish to bypass the Parish Council owing to their possible reluctance to share the villages’ desire to keep the land green. You never know the Parish Council at that time will be very village focused and will be beneficial in the application process.
The Government’s Localisation Act 2011, which introduced Community Assets, has regulations which dictate what needs to be achieved in relation to land to allow the Asset to be registered. We know that the planning department of Suffolk Coastal District Council wanted the land allocated as a building plot so I think the application needs to be water tight. There are two regulations which would be important to getting the land registered. These are both in Part 5, Chapter 3 section 88. The sections state, in essence, that the asset has an actual current use of the land that furthers the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community, and it is realistic to think that there can continue to be non-ancillary use of the land which will further (whether or not in the same way) the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community. It also goes on to say, that if the land is not in use by the community then it could be perceived that it could be used by the community within five years. Now I am not an expert at reading legislation and the committee would need to ensure that my assumptions are correct. The regulations are further complicated by another instrument in 2012.
Looking though Suffolk Coastal’s register of accepted and rejected applications for community assets makes me believe that the water tightness of the application needs to be clear and unequivocally in favour of the land being an asset to the community. The accepted assets are pubs , land, bowls greens, shops etc. The land that makes up the pub field is not something that is used by the community currently but this should not be an issue provided that Suffolk Coastal accepts the assertion that it could improve the social well being of the community.
Lastly, the right to bid is exactly that. It is the right to bid not the right to buy so the community would be vying with other interested parties to buy the land.
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One day hopefully