Nunney Parish Council has decided not to proceed with its application to register the Bird family’s SPAR shop in Nunney as a community asset.
Community assets are buildings and land that are owned or managed by community organisations, for example, village halls, community centres, pubs, green spaces, sports facilities, affordable housing and libraries.
But not all land and buildings are community assets. There are strict terms and conditions before they can be registered as such.
Assets of Community Value (ACVs) – to use the official term – can only be nominated if they are of interest socially (such as for sport, culture or recreational uses) or increase the wellbeing of the community now and into the future.
A community group (such as a society, parish council, neighbourhood forum, not for profit organisation or a group of at least 21 individuals) that is locally connected to the area can apply to the local authority to register a community asset.
Community assets must also be capable of generating a profit that can be reinvested into activities that benefit the community.
The Government has in recent years strongly encouraged local volunteers to take responsibility for community assets once they are no longer seen as commercially viable.
In nearby Mells, for example, a village shop and Post Office are successfully run by local volunteers.
A survey, required as part of a consultation during the application process, was also held to ask residents of Nunney and surrounding villages how important the shop is to them.
If the shop isn’t sold as a going concern (that is: as a shop), it would be possible to apply for a change of use to turn the building into residential housing.
Successful registration of the shop would have given the Parish Council a 6-month period to try and find a solution before any change of use can be considered.
Due to the Christmas period, there was a delay in Mendip District Council’s decision. But during a hearing on 8 February, attended by Mr Bird and members of Nunney Parish Council, it became clear that the application would not be successful in the absence of an independent valuation.
The Parish Council was asked to consider the application further before Mendip District Council would make a decision.
Group of residents
At the meeting it was disclosed that a group of local residents are intending to put in a bid to buy the shop as a going concern. Mendip District Council felt that by making it a community asset, it would hamper their bid.
Members of Nunney Parish Council were given an update during an extraordinary meeting on Monday 19 February.
The Parish Council felt that Councillors and residents had demonstrated that the shop is a community asset.
But after lengthy discussion, Nunney Parish Council decided not to proceed with the application for now due to the group of residents intending to make a bid.
The consequences of this decision could be significant for Nunney. Mendip District Council’s Local Plan 2 has scheduled our village in for 53 new homes at Green Pits Lane.
But with the Post Office already closed, bus services reduced and the village shop potentially closing within two years, Nunney could miss out on new, affordable homes badly needed for people with local connections.
This is because there is a hierarchy for communities in Mendip that includes the five main towns and a group of 16 primary and 13 secondary villages.
The definition of primary and secondary villages is linked to a number of key services and facilities.
A primary village is defined in the Local Plan as a “larger village which have core facilities and which are the first places to consider in distributing planned rural housing.”
As a primary village, Nunney must have has all four ‘core facilities’: a village shop, a village hall, a primary school and a ‘journey to work’ weekday bus service which allows residents to arrive in an employment centre – one of the 5 Mendip towns or other major centre outside the district – by 9am and return home after 5pm.
If the shop closes, Nunney could become a secondary village instead. Secondary villages are villages that still have a commuter bus service, but don’t have one or more of the other core facilities.
Losing one or more core facilities would have a ‘material impact’ on Mendip’s decision to grant planning permission for 53 new homes at Green Pits Lane in Nunney, including affordable homes for local people.