Whilst community groups will be encouraged, developers are likely to be concerned by the recent decision of Evenden Estates v Brighton and Hove City Council which clarified the test to determine when a building can qualify as an Asset of Community Value.
Under the Localism Act, buildings such as pubs or other land such as skateboarding parks may be listed as Assets of Community Value (ACVs) and from the outset it was unclear whether the legislation would be used for genuine community enhancement, or as another means of thwarting development.
The Evenden Estates case raised the question of whether a closed pub could have a community use in the next five years, where an application for planning permission for conversion into residential use had been made, but not determined.
In this case, in order to meet the test the Council simply had to demonstrate that “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”. Even though the planning application remained undetermined, it was not unrealistic to imagine that the pub could be marketed under its existing permitted use, either as a pub, or another use that furthered social interests.
The ruling could affect planning developers who have purchased closed pubs and are awaiting planning permission, particularly those facing strong opposition from local pressure groups. Such groups may make applications to register the sites as ACVs, knowing that registration would mean a potentially disruptive, six-month delay in marketing the property off plan.
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