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Community Rights

Volume 566: debated on Monday 8 July 2013

10. What steps he is taking to promote the take-up of the new community rights in the Localism Act 2011. (163434)

Community rights are being promoted through local, national, social and consumer media, ministerial visits, conferences, workshops, and external partners such as Locality, the Campaign for Real Ale and Supporters Direct.

Will the Minister impress on local authorities the importance of their using their new powers and rights to resist unwanted wind farm developments such as the one at Relay Park and that in Kingsbury in North Warwickshire, which will tower over homes in Tamworth and cause property blight?

As my hon. Friend knows, the Government recently announced that they will issue new planning policy guidance stating that the need for renewable energy does not automatically override environmental protections and the planning concerns of local communities. We intend to make pre-application consultations with local communities compulsory for more significant wind applications.

Local authorities can be in an invidious position when it comes to the community right to bid. If they agree a proposal, the owner of the asset may pursue legal action if the bid affects the value of the property. If they turn down a proposal from a community group, that group may pursue legal action. What protections will the Minister offer local councils such as Trafford in such circumstances?

I am delighted that a large number of community rights to bid have registered for local community assets, and I urge more people to do so. The hon. Lady will be aware that the right to bid is just that and should not alter the price because the community are not guaranteed to be able to buy that particular asset. It will go out to public tender, and anybody can apply.

My right hon. Friend had the opportunity to visit St Eval on his recent visit to North Cornwall, and he knows that that community is hoping to bid for assets although it was not able to meet the Ministry of Defence deadline. Will he keep under review the correlation between sources of public funding that are available to such groups, so that the timetables can align and they do not miss the opportunity to bid?

I certainly will, and I congratulate the people in St Eval for the enormously good work they are doing defending and providing real facilities for their local community. I will, of course, keep under review the issues raised by my hon. Friend.