Suffolk/Essex: Legislation could help community groups bid for pubs, libraries and post offices
PUBLISHED: 08:59 07 September 2012
COMMUNITY groups in Suffolk and Essex are being encouraged to “shape where they live” by using new legislation to protect and possibly purchase post offices, pubs, playing fields and libraries.
MPs and council leaders have said the Community Right to Bid, which is part of the Government’s Localism Bill, presents an “incredible opportunity” for people to influence the fate of vital facilities and keep the heart of their communities beating.
The policy, which is due to come into effect this autumn, allows groups and parish councils to nominate local land and buildings as being a “community asset.”
Once recognised, subject to an appeal by the property’s owners, the “asset” cannot be sold without the community group being informed and given a six-month window to prepare a bid to purchase it.
Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, said that the Right to Bid would help people to invest in where they live.
She said: “In Shottisham they came together to buy the pub and I am a shareholder in a shop which is run by the community.
“It’s that local investment, with people buying into the village and facilities, which keep communities going.”
“This legislation is really welcome, but of course that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy for community groups.”
Robin Millar, portfolio-holder for families and communities at Forest Heath District Council, said: “There is nothing worse than having no influence over things that directly affect us – the pub we might drink in, or even the village post office.
“These new Community Rights to take on assets challenge communities to do something about it.” It is a chance for people to have a say in how the community is shaped and to protect the things that are important where they live.
“This is not simple. But this policy is about shifting expectations of who shapes the community, the Government? Or residents?”
Robert Everitt, St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s portfolio-holder for the community said: “Our experience of working with community groups to take on assets and services has been very positive.
“In Southgate [in Bury St Edmunds] for example, a community group came forward to take over and run the Southgate Community Centre. We supported them as they developed their skills, business case and supporting documentation.
“The money generated is reinvested in the facilities and the result is a busy social hub. We are already working with community groups on other centres and look forward to receiving further interest generated by the new community rights.”
Tim Young, portfolio holder for planning, community safety and culture for Colchester Borough Council, said although he liked the policy in principle he thought Right to Bid would conflict with a policy of favouring sustainable development in the Government’s Planning Policy Framework.
Mr Young said: “It would be very hard to object to it at the moment. I just hope that it’s not lip-service to the community and in reality it’s big developers who win the day.”
A total of £19million of Government money has been made available to community groups to support them putting bids together and is available through the Social Investment Business Group website.
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