Assets of Community Value
Pubs across the country are under threat from a multitude of sources, from pub companies who charge tenants exorbitant rents to service their unmanageable debt levels, beer ties, excessive beer tax, VAT disparity on food compared to supermarkets and government planning guidance which allows their conversion to restaurants, betting shops and local supermarkets. Over the past few years, our area has seen a great number of pubs converted to local supermarkets, restaurants and residential dwellings that offer no social or cohesive value to our communities. Some villages like Ford, Medmenham and Widmer End have lost their community hubs.
Thankfully legislation has been put in place by the government that empowers communities to be able to protect and potentially take over institutions that further the social well-being or cultural interests of their community.
The Localism Act 2011 allows a Parish Council, a community interest group or a group of 21 people who are on the electoral register in the local planning authority area, to nominate a pub as a community asset. The Council has an obligation to list a pub if it furthers the social well- being or interests of the local community, or has done so in the recent past, and that it is realistic to think it will do within the next five years.
If the pub is subsequently put up for sale, or if a change in planning use is applied for, a six week period is instigated where any entity from the local community can register an interest to buy the pub. Should an interest be registered, a further six-month moratorium period begins to enable the local community to raise funds in order to bid for the pub. At no point during these periods can the pub be sold or have its planning use changed. It is also worth pointing out that by listing the pub, or lately registering an interest to bid, no commitment is made by anyone to part with any money. However, by listing a pub as a community asset, a strong signal is sent out to predatory developers or supermarket chains, as well as local planning departments, that the local community will not give up on their pub without a fight. A developer is more likely to prey on an unprotected pub where the process of converting it to another use is unlikely to receive as much opposition.
Within our branch area we achieved a great level of success in getting the majority of pubs listed by local councils. All 86 Parish Councils within our branch area were sent a letter and guidance in May 2013 explaining the process of listing community assets. An offer of assistance from members of this CAMRA branch was contained within the letter.
This correspondence received a mixed response from Parish Councils. Community conscious parishes such as Great Kimble, Oakley and Wingrave took up our offer of assistance and proceeded, or are proceeding, to nominating pubs. Others such as Lane End and Thame did not appear to support their social hubs. Parishes such as Stewkley and Aston Abbots declared an interest in discussing protecting their pubs. However, regretfully, most Parish Councils did not respond at all. Some parishes such as Medmenham were offered further assistance when their only community asset closed but that was met with no response.
Unfortunately these listings are time limited and some have expired or are about to expire. CAMRA branches are longer considered to be a community interest group and so can no longer register pubs as an ACV. Therefore it is up to individuals to drive the process.
Here is CAMRA's guide to nominating a pub as an ACV. Nominating pubs as an ACV