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Changes to Localism Bill will give farmers confidence to provide land for community use, says NFU


Lobbying by the NFU has won new amendments to the Localism Bill which will mean farmers and landowners can continue to allow their land to be used for community events without it hampering their ability to sell in the future.

The Bill introduces provisions to protect Assets of Community Value (ACVs), requiring local authorities to maintain a list of properties deemed to have some social value to members of the local community, for instance village shops and pubs

However, these new rules could have seen farmers and landowners prevented from selling land at a time of their choosing, due to a lack of clarity over what can be listed as an ACV. Any land designated as such would face a moratorium on any sale so that community groups are given time to submit a bid.

NFU head of government affairs Nick von Westenholz gave the example of a landowner or occupier who allows his property to be used for local events such as the annual village fete. Under the original proposals, to do so would have run the risk that a field could have been designated an ACV, so impeding his ability to dispose of the land as he wished in future.

“The threat of this risk would have resulted in less land being made available for community use, not more”, said Mr von Westenholz. “However, we are pleased the government has now listened to our concerns and introduced a number of key changes to the legislation.

“These include an attempt to define ACVs on the face of the Bill. Importantly, this specifies that the community value of an asset cannot be an ancillary one, and we were pleased to see the Minister, Baroness Hanham, speaking in the House of Lords, use the example of a farmer allowing an annual bonfire on his land to illustrate just such an ancillary use.

“Furthermore, certain categories of land will be excluded from being listed, including residential premises and any land under the same legal title. In many cases this would include a farmhouse and surrounding farmland. These changes will be contained in regulations at a later date, and we will have to look closely at their application to ensure they appropriately protect farmhouses and connected farmland.

“We welcome the fact that, if the new amendments work as proposed, farmers and landowners can continue to allow their land to be used by their local communities without it affecting their normal property rights.”

The NFU has said it will examine the details closely to ensure they meet the government’s intentions.

  • The general intention of the Assets of Community Value part of the Bill was to prevent the sale of village pubs, shops and post offices, which can form an important economic and social role in local communities, to private speculators who may seek to change their use or leave them un-used.

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