2013 was a bumper year for the community asset. The number of pubs running as co-operatives doubled, the community shop sector continued to grow and new types of co-operative took control of assets from piers to woodlands.
The growth of community assets has been fuelled by the Localism Act which, since 21 September 2012, has enabled communities to register ‘assets of community value’ with their local council. However, during 2013 it became increasingly clear that the act offered a right to bid, rather than a right to buy.
David Alcock, senior associate for Anthony Collins Solicitors, explains: “The community can request a six- month moratorium to work up a bid before an asset of community value can be sold. However, there are a whole series of exemptions to the six-month waiting period and the effect of some of these is to dilute the effectiveness of the rights as far as community groups go. It illustrates that there is a weakness in the law from the community perspective.”
Growth in 2013 has also been helped by government funding and support.
Mike Perry of the Plunkett Foundation, which promotes and supports co-operatives and social enterprises in rural communities worldwide, says: “We’ve had the prime minister in his speech to the G8 on social investment praise a whole range of community co-operatives when he pledged £250m towards community assets and community enterprise.”
According to the Plunkett Foundation, the number of co-operative pubs doubled during 2013, from 11 to 22. It has also received 115 calls to the
Co-operative Pubs Advice Line it launched in March.
The Woodland Social Enterprise Network, launched in December 2012, now boasts over 60 organisations and individuals as members. The network was set up by the Plunkett Foundation alongside Hill Holt Wood, Forestry Commission, Locality, Co-operatives UK, the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Social Enterprise UK. Mike Perry of the Foundation says: “Since this started we’ve seen community woodland purchases in Melborne, Derbyshire, and community share issues for woodchip boilers taking place.”
The rebuilding of Hastings Pier was championed by the people of the town. Their work led to the formation of the People’s Pier Co-operative, which will run the business. A £500,000 community share offer, launched in October, will top up £11.4m from the Heritage Lottery Fund and over £2m from other public and institutional sources. The co-op has already raised over £175,000 in shares.
The Plunkett Foundation says there are now 318 co-operative community shops in the UK. Seventeen of these were set up in 2013. Two closed this year, one of which converted back to private ownership.