Communities Minister Don Foster has formally authorised new powers which will enable communities to prevent the sell off of local assets like post offices, village shops and pubs. Speaking at the conference of the National Association of Local Councils, Mr Foster outlined the benefits of the Community Right to Bid which came into force as part of the Localism Act on September 21.
Under the provisions of the act, voluntary and community groups will be able to ‘stop the clock’ on the rapid sell off of valued commercial properties giving them the time to put together a bid of their own to protect it for the benefit of the local community. They can do this by nominating the building as an ‘asset of community value’ thereby legally preventing the sale for a period of six months.
Speaking about the new Right to Bid powers Mr Foster said; “For too long communities have been shut out, forced to watch from the sidelines as treasured local assets, vital in people’s daily lives, have been shut down and sold on.
“We are determined to put an end to that and put people back at the centre of the future of their communities.”
Local communities have been quick to exercise their new rights. In Norden locals have formed a trust to buy the lease of the local library and open it as a facility for the benefit of the community. In Cranleigh the community is planning to return the village hospital to use to support the elderly.
Any groups following the lead of these communities will be entitled to benefit from a £30 million package of support announced in July. This gives groups hoping to bid for a local shop, pub or other building access to a range of advice and support. This will cover everything from preparing a bid to developing the skills to run it.
A Community Rights website has been launched to give people more information on the new powers and the opportunities they provide.
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