Local nimbys ‘set to hijack community right to buy scheme’

COMMERCIAL property owners have warned that government plans to give local communities the right to buy struggling pubs and post offices could be taken over by anti-development nimbies.

The Community Right to Buy scheme is a part of the Localism Bill that is making its way through parliamentary processes.

Provisions in the bill have recently been out to public consultation but the British Property Federation has warned that the right to buy could be ‘hijacked to stifle development and economic growth’.

The scheme will give local communities a chance to bid to take over assets that are important to them. Community groups would be able to nominate an asset to be listed with the local authority, and would then have a window of opportunity to organise a bid if the asset was to be sold.

However, the British Property Federation says detail in the consultation document reveals communities will only be able to list the building and not the service that operates from within it.

For example, a post office is a contractual service and while the community may be able to bid for the building, this would not guarantee the continuation of the service.

Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: “It is misleading of government to portray the Community Right to Buy scheme as a mechanism for local communities to keep services open.

“If, for example, a local pub faces closure and the community manage to purchase it they would take ownership of the building and not the service. They would have to take on and organise this for themselves.

“As other provisions in the Localism Bill allow services run by local authorities to be taken over by communities using the Community Right to Challenge, you do have to question what the Community Right to Buy scheme brings to the table.”

There are also fears the Community Right to Buy scheme may be used to stifle development and economic growth with vexatious nominations to the local authority. Given the financial impact and inconvenience to property owners that could result the BPF is calling on the government to put in place a series of safeguards that communities must satisfy in order to successfully list a property with the local authority.

Liz Peace added: “Any community group wishing to purchase a community asset should have to prove their ability to raise the money for the purchase. Including this measure will help reduce incidence of vexatious applications and go some way towards providing peace of mind for property owners affected.”

In his foreword to the consultation, that closed on May 3, decentralisation minister Greg Clark said: “Under the Bill, it will become easier for local people to give the green light to the building of shops, businesses and homes where they are most needed. Voluntary groups and social enterprises will be able to ask to take over the running of local public services. And when important local amenities and buildings – such as community centres, old town halls, village shops or pubs – come up for sale, communities will have extra time to prepare a bid to take them over, making it easier to keep much-loved assets in public use and part of local life.”

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