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Assets of Community Value

Volume 773: debated on Tuesday 24 May 2016


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to review and strengthen the law concerning assets of community value.

My Lords, in their 2015 manifesto this Government committed to strengthening the Community Right to Bid. We have spoken to stakeholders—from local authorities and community groups to property owners—listening to their reflections and experiences of how the Community Right to Bid is working in practice. Their views will allow us to develop options to strengthen the policy, as we set out in the manifesto commitment.

My Lords, I declare an interest as an elected councillor in the London Borough of Lewisham. Moving the definition of “assets of community value” from just land and property would enable the concept of community value to be extended further. For example, the loss of a rural bus route or the closure of a local newspaper are issues of real community concern. Will the noble Baroness agree to meet with me and campaigners to discuss the issue further and discuss anomalies in the implementation of the policy since its inception?

I will certainly undertake to meet the noble Lord—I have seen a lot of him over the last few months—and conversations like that will inform the development of the policy.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that such assets have often been the only public house in an area? Often, local communities have plans to continue that use and expand to include accommodating a shop, post office or community library, but their plans are thwarted by the breweries giving insufficient time for them to raise the necessary cash. What plans do the Government have in place to support such communities in their ventures?

The noble Baroness is absolutely right: things such as pubs, shops and post offices are the hub of community life, particularly in rural areas. One thing that is being considered is the length of the moratorium for sale. I am sure that some of the feedback we will get will inform our thinking on this.

My Lords, the Minister may be aware that it is getting harder and harder to find petrol stations in London as they are all being sold off and turned into lovely flats, for example. Is there any control over the total number of stations and some way of ensuring that we do not end up with none within the London area?

I am sure the noble Lord has asked me a question about petrol stations in the past, but I cannot quite remember in what context. Petrol stations are a bit like buses—you either see none, or loads of them within a confined area. I can certainly take that question away regarding how to protect such assets for communities.