Agenda item

Localism Act 2011 (Agenda item 8)

Report of Mark Kiddle-Morris, Executive Member for Assets & Strategic Development.

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Assets & Strategic Development presented the report that updated Members on the work undertaken thus far that ensured the Council’s full compliance with the Act.  The report also sought Members’ agreement to introduce a Community Asset Register in line with the aforementioned legislation.

 

The Localism Act introduced the Community Right to Bid.  This allowed communities to nominate buildings and land that they considered of value to the community, to be included on a local authority maintained list - the Community Asset Register.  If any of these assets were put up for sale, the community then had a window of opportunity to express an interest in purchasing the asset, and another window of opportunity to bid. 

 

The Executive Member for Assets & Strategic Development said that it was quite a long process to go through and made reference to the Community Asset Register process attached at appendix 1 of the report.  He then highlighted the recommendations, one of which was to establish a Community Assets Register and the other to agree a policy of no compensation payments.  The reason for such a policy was explained and for clarification purposes he felt that paragraph 4.2 of the report should be included in the first recommendation.

 

Councillor Sharpe knew that the right of appeal by a landowner would be to Breckland Council but in the Act it stated that an appeal was linked to an individual tier tribunal.  He asked when this process applied.  In response, Members were informed that a tier tribunal was part of a two stage court process, the first being the appeal to the Council and the second being part of the court system.  Councillor Sharpe asked if a community registered a building, was it the actual building they would be registering or the use.  In terms of the regulations, the Joint Deputy Planning Manager explained that any land or buildings could be added to the register with exemptions. If it was a building or a piece of land that had community value and was, for example, changed from a public house to another use, it would still have to have the same community value; in other words, it was the use that was registered and not the building.

 

The Chairman asked if a change of use to a building was applied would it then trigger the community right to bid.  The Joint Deputy Planning Manager explained that some change of use did not require planning permission but if a building had been included on a community register it would not preclude the planning process if a change of use was submitted but it would have to be taken into consideration.

 

The Executive Member for Internal Services stated that Breckland Council operated a policy against change of use over a period of time to allow such uses to be protected for the community. He gave an example of what was happening in Rocklands in relation to the White Hart Association that was intent in purchasing the White Hart Public House without going through the Community Right to Buy route.  He also mentioned the Community Right to Build that was progressing in another of his Wards.  He felt that communities were filling the gap where commercial enterprises were failing.  The Executive Member for Internal Services agreed with the aforementioned suggestion in relation to paragraph 4.2 of the report being included in the recommendation.  He also supported the second recommendation.

 

The Joint Deputy Planning Manager explained that the Community Right to Build process would be subject to a local referendum. 

 

The Chairman of the Planning Committee pointed out that Planning had received a number of applications requesting public houses to be turned into dwellings. 

 

The Chairman of the Overview & Scrutiny Commission felt that with all the changes afoot, it was important that Breckland Council kept these community pubs alive.

 

Referring to the additional wording under paragraph 4.2 being included in the first recommendation, it was agreed that paragraph 4.4 should also be incorporated.

 

It was noted that the Community’s Asset Register was the final part of the Localism Act to be completed. 

 

Options

 

(1)         Create a Community Asset Register adjudicated and administered by officers.

 

(2)         Create a Community Asset Register adjudicated by Members and administered by officers.

 

(3)         Agree a policy for the payment of compensation to the owners of assets included on the register.

 

(4)         Agree a policy of not providing compensation payments.

 

Reasons

 

(1)         By having the Community Asset Register adjudicated and administered by officers standard practices and procedures would be developed and followed but Members’ local knowledge would likely not be utilised on a case-by-case basis.

 

(2)         By adjudicating for the Community Asset Register, Members would be applying their local knowledge to their work for the Council and exercising the authority of their mandate (with the assistance of officers as required) - therefore promoting local democracy, which in turn further promoted the Localism Agenda.

 

(3)         By having a policy of compensation payment the Council exposes itself to financial risk. Without data over a sufficiently long period it was impossible to accurately predict the cost of a compensation policy. Central government had committed to paying any compensation in excess of £20,000 over the course of a financial year, which limited the range of costs, but this was up for review in 2015.

 

(4)         By having a policy of not paying compensation, the Council would avoid exposure to the risk of up to £20,000 per year until 2015 – and an unknown level of financial risk in following years.

 

RESOLVED that:

 

(1)   the activity already undertaken to ensure compliance with the Localism Act 2011, and the establishment of a Community Assets Register as outlined in the report (and in particular reference to paragraphs 4.2 (para. 2 above) and 4.4 (and para. 4 above) of the report) and in compliance with the Localism Act 2011 be noted; and

 

(2)   a policy of no compensation payments with regards to loss of income due to the moratorium on sale imposed by registration on the Community Assets Register (i.e. compensation for delay or failure to sell as a result of registration NOT loss of property value through the sale) be agreed.

Supporting documents: