Disused Church Fails 'Asset of Community Value' Test

In an important decision for developers, a tribunal has ruled that registration of land and buildings as ‘assets of community value’ under the Localism Act 2011 requires more than speculative evidence that they can be put to good use in the future.

The owner of a disused church and surrounding land hoped to raise £600,000 by selling the property to a residential developer. However, a local conservation group objected and the local authority registered the site under the Act. That had the effect of imposing a six-month moratorium on the site’s sale so that community interest groups would have the opportunity to come up with alternative proposals and bid for the property.

In overturning the registration, however, the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) found that, given the heavy cost of maintaining the church and its grounds, there was no realistic prospect of a community use being found for them within a reasonable timescale. A range of possible uses for the site had been put forward – from the holding of village fetes to bat watching – but the FTT found that such proposals were ‘entirely speculative’.