Article in Buxton Advertiser 5 March 2018 - Fight to Save SCF Continues Despite Setback
5 February 2018 - news on registering the Farm as an Asset of Community Value. The final decision will be taken by the Council on 15 February 2018 but they have published their report and recommendations in advance. The recommendation is for rejection of the nomination.We've updated local press and copied members of the relevant Council Committees in on our letter to the Buxton Advertiser:
Many of your readers will be following the story of Serpentine Community Farm and our campaign to stay open as a community growing space for the people of Buxton. The latest instalment concerns our application to be registered as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).
On 2 February 2018, High Peak Borough Council published their assessment. The Officer’s Report recommends that the nomination be rejected. This recommendation is not entirely unexpected but the reasons for rejection leave us perplexed.
Rejection, if endorsed, hinges on the terms of our current licence. We have taken full advantage of the agreement to develop the site’s growing facilities to further social well-being and the interests of our local community. However, despite repeated requests, our licence does not extend to use and restoration of the original workshops. We have had to watch them fall further into dereliction. Now we find that as these buildings have not been used to benefit the community they are not considered eligible for listing. Therefore, the whole site is deemed ineligible.
The Officer’s Report acknowledges that the situation is unusual: ’It is not clear in the Localism Act how to treat the nomination of a property where part but not all of the nomination meets this criterion for listing. The options would appear to be to either refuse the whole nomination or accept the nomination but exclude the area which does not meet the criteria.’
We suggest a third option to resolve the issue - accept the nomination and include the old workshops in recognition of the community benefits their restoration would bring.
Finally, the Officer’s Report considers whether it is realistic to think that that the building or land will ‘continue to be used in a way which will further the social well-being and social interest of the community within the next five years’. The report concludes with a judgement that such an expectation is unrealistic as the landowner, HPBC, is considering the disposal of the whole site. We note that the Council assumes success in securing planning permission. With a more realistic 50:50 chance of success it is not fanciful to expect community use to continue for the specified five years, or indeed fifty.
We have to question the decision-making process if planned sell-off of an asset is allowed to trump all. The Localism Act 2012 empowers local communities with a number of new rights, including a protected period of time for registered ACVs to put together a bid should the property they have nominated be put up for sale. ACV registration is most often used precisely when property disposal is a possibility. For example, about half the properties on HPBC’s ACV list are pubs. None were rejected for listing on grounds that the brewery chains planned to sell them.
Recognising the controversy rejection would cause, HPBC will take the report to Corporate Select Committee for consideration before it is passed to the Executive Team for a final decision on 15 February 2018. We sincerely hope the decision is made objectively but suspect that may be tricky for landowners seeking to raise money by selling the site.
Anne Holloway - Chair, Serpentine Community Farm
Madeline Hall - Project Director, Serpentine Community Farm