Today saw the launch of the Portas Review: an independent review on the future of high streets. The recommendations list a series of ideas and challenges for local government – not least more ‘Big Society’ provisions to enable citizens and communities to get more involved in deciding what they want for their local towns.
One in particular caught my eye – the ‘Community Right to Buy’. Except, it is not the right to ‘Buy’; it’s the right to ‘Bid’. And there is a very clear distinction to be made between the two, as I heard when chairing an LGiU event on Assets of Community Value last week.
The provisions in the Localism Act give voluntary and community organisations with a local connection, and Parish Councils the opportunity to bid for – not necessarily buy – assets that would otherwise be sold privately. In order to be able to do this, the asset in question must be on the list of assets of community value. Sounding complicated? Here is the presentation from the Department of Communities and Local Government which outlines how the provisions on Right to Bid are going to work.
As I said, the distinction between ‘buy’ and ‘bid’ is important. As set out, the provisions do not:
- Restrict who the owner of a listed asset sells to
- Restrict the price the owner sells at
- Restrict what the owner can do with their property once listed
So as many people commented in the event, the provisions give communities a fantastic opportunity to do things with assets that are within community use, but the provisions to not guarantee that if a listed asset comes up for sale, the community will get it.
For local government, the challenge is to proactively manage arrangements around this provision in preparation for commencement: start talking with communities, local business and other local public services about assets, what is valued and how communities can be supported to take over assets that they want to keep.