Transferring land into community ownership

jCommunity ownership of assets comes in a number of forms including:

  • Leased assets - where a community group or organisation has leased facilities or land from the local authority
  • Shared ownership - where a community group or organisation jointly owns and manages services or facilities with the local authority or private organisation. This may involve either control of the asset rather than actually delivering the service, or inversely, being subcontracted by their partner organisation, perhaps the local authority, to deliver services
  • Community ownership - where the land, asset or facility is entirely owned and managed by the community group or organisation.

Community Groups and stewardship organisationsGlossary: are organisations, sometime charitable, that have a specific role to manage community assets into the long-term for the benefit of the local population as a whole should be encouraged to explore options to take over responsibility for underused public land and buildings where it is appropriate to meet the needs of the organisation and the wider community. Increasingly local authorities and other public bodies are being encouraged to transfer more of their assets into community ownership. The Development Trusts Association and its partners' programme, Advancing Assets for Communities, ran a series of demonstration projects transferring assets to community ownership. Since this was completed in 2008 CLGGlossary: is a shortened name for the central government of Communities and Local Government has begun work to create a national Asset Transfer Unit to support practitionersGlossary: are people engaged in an occupation or profession that is involved in planning and delivering settlements in other areas to undertake similar transfers.

There are legal provisions in the Local Government Act 1972 that suggest that in particular circumstances, the best option may be for an asset to be transferred to community management and ownership. Also, there is a legal power, Public Request to Order Disposal (PROD) that enables any member of the public to request the Secretary of State to direct a local authority (or certain other public bodies) to dispose of a building or piece of land in its ownership that is unused or underused in meeting the public body's functions.

Local authorities are required to make use of 'best consideration' when managing assets. In many cases this requires a local authority to seek the highest price for any asset which is transferred to another party. However, there is also scope for local authorities to consider transferring assets with a financial endowment to help support long-term management, using their discretionary power to promote community well-being, awarded in the Local Government Act (2000).