Pubs of community value the right to interfere

The Localism Act 2011 introduced the concept of an Asset of Community Value (ACV). It was initially thought that this would be accompanied by the right for the community to buy the asset, but this turned out not to be the case.

Every local authority now maintains a list of ACVs. They can be nominated by the parish council or other voluntary or community groups. Once nominated, the local authority has 8 weeks to decide if the asset qualifies as an ACV. About 80% of applications succeed. Nominations have covered diverse property such as churches, offices, shops, clinics, pubs, playing fields and other open spaces. In order to qualify, the applicant must demonstrate that the asset “furthers the social wellbeing or social interests of the community” and can continue to do so in the future.

Once on the list, the ACV will normally remain there for 5 years, until review. However, this does not give the community a “right to buy” as can be the case in Scotland, but only a “right to bid”. Should the owner seek to make a relevant disposal (sale, or the grant or assignment of a lease longer than 25 years), the local authority must be notified and 6 week interim moratorium period begins during which a community group can ask to be considered as a bidder.

Should this happen, then there is a further 6 month moratorium period in which the landowner can only make a relevant disposal to the community group. This addresses the perceived issue of such groups losing out on assets due to the time required to raise funds. If no deal is done at the end of the 6 month period, the owner can dispose of the asset however they wish.

Perhaps not surprisingly, over a third of nominations cover pubs and there are plenty of examples, good and bad, of community run pubs. A difficulty has arisen as it is now possible to change the use of a pub, or indeed demolish it, without making a “relevant  disposal” as it can be done by utilising Permitted Development Rights. Hence, earlier this year the Government announced that it would be bringing in secondary legislation as soon as possible to remove Permitted Development Rights on pubs on the ACV list.

We can all drink to that, unless of course you were hoping to develop a pub that is on the ACV list or in danger of being nominated. If that is the case, then it is time to move fast before the legislative change or be prepared to go through the planning system.

If you would like any further information or to discuss any rural related matter, please contact Tom Wills, head of the agriculture & estates department at Sintons.

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