You may have received a notification from the Local Authority that your Church/Church Hall has been nominated by a local community group to be placed on the List of Assets of Community Value. It is important to know that Managing Trustees can make representations to the Local Authority that the Local Authority should consider when deciding whether or not to place the property on the List. The notification received from the Local Authority will give a date by which representations must be made. The Local Authority has to make a decision within 8 weeks of receiving the nomination from a community group as to whether or not the property will be placed on the List of Assets of Community Value, it is therefore important that the Managing Trustees act quickly if they wish to make representations.
What representations can be made?
TMCP have been notified that Managing Trustees have successfully made representations which have resulted in their Church property not being added to the List of Assets of Community Value (‘the List’).
Managing Trustees should consider the following:
Has the nomination been made for part of the building only?
A nomination may have been made for a Church Hall to be placed on the List of Assets of Community Value. If the Church Hall is integrated into part of a larger building, such as the Church, there could be an argument for it not to be placed on the List. Managing Trustees should provide a description as to how the Church Hall forms part of a wider building. Is there an independent rating assessment for the Church Hall? If not this could be used as evidence that the Church and Church Hall are considered to be a single building.
Is there any community use taking place?
Under the Localism Act 2011 the principle (non-ancillary) use of the property must further (or has recently furthered) the community’s social well-being or social interests. Religious use has been held by a First-tier Tribunal not to be a use which furthers a social interest, therefore if the property has only ever been used as a Methodist Church and no community activity (dance groups, mother & toddler groups etc..) have never met on the property, then it will not meet the criteria for being placed on the List and should not be listed. Managing Trustees would need to make representations to the Local Authority if this is the case.
Could the community use be considered ancillary?
As stated above, if the community use is considered ancillary to the main use of the property as a place of worship then representations stating this fact should be made to the Local Authority so they can be considered. Details of how many hours the property is used for worship and how many hours it is used by community groups could help demonstrate that any community use is ancillary.
Whilst many Local Authorities will take into account representations made there is no obligation under the legislation for them to do so. However, TMCP have been made aware of Managing Trustees throughout the Connexion who have made representations, as mentioned above, which have led to Methodist property not being placed on the List. It is therefore important if any of the maters outlined above apply to let the Local Authority know by the given deadline.
If a property has been listed can it be challenged?
Managing Trustees will have a legal right to object once a property has been placed on the List and a request for review must be made within 8 weeks of the property being listed. The decision will be reviewed by an office of a Local Authority which was not involved in the original decision and the review will must be completed within 8 weeks of the request.
If a property is placed on the List and Managing Trustees have no grounds to make representations it is extremely important to be aware of the implications of the listing if the Managing Trustees decide to dispose of the property. Please read TMCP’s guidance note on Assets of Community Value - The Localism Act 2011 for detailed guidance.
If you have any queries in relation to the guidance in this document please contact TMCP Legal for further assistance.