The White Lion- An Asset of Community Value.
The White Lion was nominated as an Asset of Community Value soon after the last landlord or manager left in 2014, and that nomination went through smoothly, although frustratingly because of a consultation period, Greene King completed on the sale to the current owner about a week or so before the nomination came into effect.
The legislation that set up the ACV’s was the Localism Act of 2011, which was passed by the coalition government a year or so after the 2010 election.
The legislation states in Section 88 Sub Section (2)
For the purposes of this Chapter but subject to regulations under subsection (3), a building or other land in a local authority’s area that is not land of community value as a result of subsection (1) is land of community value if in the opinion of the local authority –
(a) there is a time in the recent past when an actual use of the building or other land that was not an ancillary use furthered the social wellbeing or interests of the local community, and
(b) it is realistic to think that there is a time in the next five years when there could be non-ancillary use of the building or other land that would further (whether or not in the same way as before) the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community.
(Subsection 1 refers to places that are currently operating)
The granting of an ACV has become more difficult is recent years, and the value that it offers, which was not that great in the first place, is under challenge.
What the ACV does secure, unambiguously, is a moratorium on the sale process, if the community wishes to make a bid for the asset. The moratorium period is 6 months, and although the owner cannot sell the asset to another party within the 6 months, there is no obligation to sell to the community, and the owner can accept a higher or lower offer than the one the community makes.
In a government report ( DCLG Committee) in 2015, it was noted that over 4,000 ACVs were listed, and at that time 122 moratorium periods had been triggered and 11 properties had gone on to being acquired by the community.
However, the rate of success of ACVs has accelerated since then, and there have been many more successful takeovers.
One of the important factors is of course the alternative uses that a property can be used for, and in our area residential development can attract a big premium over the pub value. However, such development can only, legally, be done with planning permission, and the ACV listing of a property is a Material Planning consideration, a technical term that means that the Planning Authority has to take account of the ACV, as well as other matters of Local Policy set out in the Local Plan, and National Policy set out in the NPPF. I have had confirmation from South Oxfordshire District Council, the Planning Authority, that an ACV is a Material Planning Consideration.
In our desire to have the White Lion as a community asset, either owned by the community or run as a pub, the ACV is as important for control of its planning destiny as anything else.
The progress on the White Lion ACV listing is that the District Council granted the new ACV, and the owner asked for a review, the result of which was that the original decision of the Council was upheld. The owner has now appealed to the Courts, and there is due a hearing at what is called a First Tier Tribunal.
The Appeal hearing, which is not in public, was scheduled for May 20th, and although an online hearing was offered as an alternative as that date was “Covided”, the owner wants to hold out for an in person hearing, which will be in the autumn or later.
It is possible to review many of the decisions made by these Tribunals in respect of ACVs, and there seem to be several critical questions. The judges, in their findings, often note that the legislation sets a fairly low bar to the granting of the ACV, in particular in paragraph (b) the point that it only has to be “realistic to think”, in other words there has to be a possibility.
However, there still does have to be a possibility, and that possibility needs to be demonstrated by having an active community group, with as much depth of support as possible. Some appeals have been won by the owners because there was little evidence of community support and involvement.
Any campaigning group, like ours, will always be composed of people with different levels of support and involvement, but, like a pyramid, the larger the base, the higher and greater the campaign will be.