Monday August 20, 2018
Is there a piece of land or building in your community that you think could be better used if owned or managed directly by the community? If so, the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 (CEA) gives communities of place and of interest the right to request the transfer of publicly owned land or buildings on the basis a management agreement, lease or ownership. Community groups can state how much they are prepared to pay; justifying any discount requested on the basis of the benefits and value their proposal will bring. The presumption is in favour of community proposals unless there are reasonable grounds for refusal and there is an appeal to Scottish Ministers.
The Asset Transfer Route Map was designed to give communities a sense of the whole asset transfer process and it has been split into 4 phases –
- Phase 1 - Checking it Out
When considering an asset transfer, it is important that any request is rooted in the needs of the particular community. Early stage consultation is key to developing ideas for the site and building support for the project. Checking out other projects can be an excellent way to hear from other community groups on how they are delivering their services, developed a sustainable proposition and what challenges there have been.
- Phase 2 - Defining your Project
As the ideas for the project develop and the viability is being assessed, contacting the public owner flags the group’s interest and gives the opportunity to request any available information that will assist with the planning of the project. This could include known issues, burdens on the site, running costs and whether there are any specific reasons why the asset can’t be transferred.
The involvement of key stakeholders at this stage will also be significant. These stakeholders could be the wider geographic community, existing users, public sector and potential investors.
Although many groups will already have a legal structure, some may not. It is at this stage that consideration should be given to the legal form which best suits the organisation and the plans for the future.
To be considered as an eligible Community Transfer Body for the transfer of assets under CEA, a community group has to have a written constitution which defines its community (of place or interest), that the majority of its members are drawn from that community, have provision that the membership of this body is open to any member of that community and be able to demonstrate that the members have control of the organisation. Any surplus funds or assets of the body need to be applied for the benefit of that community.
Where the transfer is on the basis of ownership, the community group must be incorporated as a –
- Company Limited by Guarantee
- Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO)
- Community Benefit Society (Bencom)
All with a minimum membership of 20.
Community groups who are eligible for the Community Right to Buy or the Crofting Community Right to Buy under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 are also eligible to make an asset transfer request. There is an option for other organisations who do not meet the criteria to seek individual designation from Scottish Ministers.
- Phase 3 - Detailed Feasibility and Business Planning
As the project progresses, it is likely that input from professional services will be required at this more detailed feasibility and business planning stage. Much will depend on the scale of the project but development funding could be required to support input from surveyors, architects, planners and business development consultants. There are a range of grant funds available to support this activity and COSS Advisers are happy to discuss the options and signpost to funders and other appropriate support services.
- Phase 4 - Asset Transfer Request
When the formal asset transfer is submitted, the process and timescales laid down in the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act will be followed by the relevant authorities with community rights of appeal throughout.
This is a particularly busy period in the asset transfer process as it is likely that a range of funding applications will be required to support the redevelopment of the asset, ongoing negotiations and finalising terms.
Community involvement throughout the whole process is essential not only to garner support from the early stages but the continued involvement throughout the life of the project and gaining longer term commitment to the success of the venture.
And finally, it can be a long journey so do make time to celebrate a successful transfer.
The Community Ownership Support Service is delivered by the Development Trusts Association Scotland. Funded by the Scottish Government, this adviser-led service provides supports and advice to both communities and relevant authorities in the sustainable transfer of public assets into community ownership.
0131 225 2080