Community Asset Transfer
What is it?
If your community is threatened with the loss of an important asset building or area of land, you can do something about it. It could be a community centre, library, or the local village pub, any of the places that your community really values. It could also be a redundant school, church or town hall, with potential to become one of those vital community hubs.
There are lots of different ways asset transfer can work – for example, if it’s owned by the local authority, you can try to transfer at less than market value. If it’s not, and is for sale, you may be able to bid to buy it. Once you’ve got a particular building in mind, you’ll need to do a bit of research to find out what your options are. The list of resources below can help you with that, as can your local council.
Government is trying to make this process easier, though. The Localism Bill, currently going through Parliament, proposes a Community Right to Buy. This will allow communities ask the local authority to consider adding a building to a list of community assets. Once listed, if the owner decides to sell, and your group has the right structure and safeguards, you will be able to trigger a delay in selling giving you time to prepare a business plan and raise the money to bid for the asset.
How can I get involved?
Once you’ve found the building and decided how best to make a transfer happen, the first thing you’ll need is a community organisation to transfer ownership of the asset into. This might be a company limited by guarantee or a Community Interest Company (CIC). You might need some legal advice to help you make the right decision here and there’s also help available from the resources set out below.
You will need a business plan and to think carefully about the skills and capacity you will need – you may want to get some advice (see sources below). You will also need to secure finance and make sure that your business plan explains how you’ll cover the running costs of the building in the future.
Try and get as many people from across the community as you can involved in the project. The more people who are behind your idea, the easier it’ll be to make it happen, plus you’ll also find people with skills, knowledge and energy to contribute. That will also help if you need to do any lobbying – there are people (like local councillors) you might need to get on board, particularly if you’re trying to transfer a local authority asset.
Taking on an asset is a major commitment, but there is lots of experience around the country where voluntary and community organisations have done it successfully. The best single source of help is the Asset Transfer Unit (ATU) – ring 0845 345 4564. The ATU website provides a support map to help you through the process, guides and legal documents, case studies and film clips to show what can be done. Remember though – it can be done – and it is being done across the country!
Where can I get more information?
- If you want to take on a heritage asset, there’s a detailed guide developed with English Heritage and others at Asset Transfer Unit – Heritage Guidance.
- If you want to take on an open space, there’s detailed guidance developed with CABE at Asset Transfer Unit – Community-led spaces.
- If you want help with practical design of a community asset, there’s a helpful guide developed with Glasshouse Design at Asset Transfer Unit – Making Buildings Work for your Community.
- If you want to make use of a range of legal template documents, they are at Asset Transfer Unit – Legal Toolkit.
- If you want to take over your local library, the ATU can offer detailed advice on how to do it at Asset Transfer Unit – Community Owned Libraries.
- If you want to find a surplus public building, or share ideas about new uses of old buildings, look at The Place Station.
- The Plunkett Foundation provide seed-corn funding and support for rural communities to run community-own services.