Draft Local Plan October 2012

Retention and Development of Local Services and Community Facilities

6.40 Local services and community facilities include village and neighbourhood shops, post offices, pubs, community/youth centres and halls, theatres and museums, indoor and outdoor sports and leisure facilities, schools, education and training centres, libraries, doctor's surgeries and health centres, public toilets, crèches and children's nurseries, places of worship and other facilities which meet people day to day needs.

6.41 These facilities continue to be important in meeting the day to day needs of residents providing social meeting places, sports venues and essential local services to maintain healthy and inclusive communities. Surveys of parish facilities in our Settlement Sustainability reports have indicated that many settlements have seen the closure of schools, shops, post offices, public houses and other facilities. This is in part due to changing social and economic circumstances including the ways we now access many services using the internet or telephone. Economies of scale and public service budget cuts are also leading to public services being concentrated in the larger centres of population. In other cases the high residential land values in the District make the closure and conversion of facilities such as shops and pubs attractive to investors. This is a threat to the sustainability of our communities particularly in the rural areas where such facilities can form the hub of social life.

6.42 Through the Localism Act the Government is implementing provisions to ensure that when important local services, buildings and amenity land (e.g. community halls, village shops, local pubs, community open space) come up for sale, local communities have an increased opportunity to bid to buy and take over the running of such assets that are deemed of value to the local community. Communities can nominate a wide range of assets that can be in either public or private ownership. The relevant provisions are known as the Community Right to Bid which gives local communities a legal right to nominate a local amenity as an asset of community value. This action then requires the local authority to maintain a list of assets of community value that have been nominated. When listed assets come up for sale or change of ownership, the Community Right to Bid then provides for a delay in the disposal process that will give community groups the time to develop a bid and seek to buy the asset when it comes on the open market. The Council is working to implement the new Community Right and will give further guidance on how it works and what support is available to local communities seeking to use this new opportunity.

6.43 The Council will continue its approach of resisting the loss of community facilities and services which meet the day to day needs of local communities. In considering proposals involving the potential loss or change of use of such facilities the Council, in consultation with the local community, will take into account the importance of the facility to the local community particularly in meeting day to day needs. To justify the loss of facilities it will need to be demonstrated that they are no longer viable (through a robust marketing exercise where possible) or are no longer required because equivalent or alternative provision will remain or will be provided to meet local needs.

CORE POLICY 15 - Local Services and Community Facilities

The Council will promote the development and retention of local services and community facilities to promote social interaction and healthy inclusive communities.

Proposals that would result in the loss of community facilities and services will only be supported where it can be clearly shown that appropriate alternative provision of at least equivalent suitability and accessibility, particularly by foot, will remain or that the existing use is no longer required or viable and is incapable of being made viable or adapted for other community uses. Where possible a robust marketing exercise will be required to demonstrate a lack of commercial or community interest in continuing the community facility or service.