The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has announced extra support for voluntary and community groups campaigning to save local assets such as historic pubs, seaside piers or market halls, under threat when their owners refuse to sell.
DCLG has suggested that often a compulsory purchase order (CPO) by a council and future development as a community asset would be the ideal solution.
However, ministers are concerned that community groups with viable, fully financed schemes can feel shut out of the process and left without a voice in shaping local plans as councils do not have to engage with them or acknowledge their contribution.
Revised guidance, just issued, now requires local authorities to give serious consideration to all viable requests put to them by voluntary and community groups for the compulsory purchase of a threatened community asset.
DCLG has stated that if communities want to bring a valued local asset back to use - for example turning a boarded-up building into a community centre - they can contact their council and ask them to use a compulsory purchase order to buy the asset.
Under the new guidance, local authorities would also have to respond formally, outlining the reasons behind their decisions.
This revised guidance builds on the proposed new 'social responsibility' deal for councils, announced by DCLG Secretary of State Eric Pickles, which urges them to give greater support to voluntary and community groups.
Planning and decentralisation minister Greg Clark said: "Communities often feel powerless when they see local assets going to waste.
"Voluntary and community groups who know their area best should have more of a say in determining how their neighbourhoods develop and local authorities - acting in the best interests of local people - should take seriously all viable requests put to them for the compulsory purchase of a threatened community asset”.
The minister added: "Community groups would, of course, have to pay a fair price for the asset, as well as the costs incurred by the local authority.”
Current guidance to local authorities in England is contained in an Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Circular 06/2004 Compulsory Purchase and the Crichel Down Rules.
16 June 2011