Relevant Authorities and Asset Transfer requests
A Community Asset Transfer (“CAT”) can only be used to request a transfer of an asset (such as land or building(s)) from a relevant authority as defined within Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 (the “2015 Act”). This includes the Scottish Government, local councils, health boards and some other Scottish public bodies. It can also include a company which is wholly owned by one or more relevant authorities. Therefore it may be possible to use the CAT process to request an asset from a wholly owned company which was set up by a local authority (or jointly by two or more local authorities) if a Community Transfer Body believes that it would be better placed to utilise the asset for the benefit of the community.
To view further information on Community Transfer Bodies, please click here.
Asset Transfer Requests
In order to proceed with a CAT, an asset transfer request must be made in writing (which includes email or other electronic forms) to the relevant authority that owns the asset/property that the community transfer body is seeking to acquire.
The asset transfer request must confirm;
- the Community Transfer Body’s details (name and address), and a copy of the body’s rules;
- that the request is a request under the 2015 Act;
- what property the body wants transferred;
- whether the body wishes to purchase or take a lease or other right in the property (such as an occupancy agreement or licence);
- the price (if any) that the body is willing to pay, or the duration of the lease requested;
- the intended use/plan for the property if the request is successful, to detail how the body’s plans will benefit the community.
The price paid for the property may differ depending on the value or benefit to the community that the CAT could bring to the local area. In other words, the relevant authority will balance the benefit to the community against the market value of the property and decide if it is worth giving the land at a discount or for free (usually subject to conditions).
The relevant authority must acknowledge the request and provide timescales for a decision to be made by the relevant authority. The relevant authority must notify the applicant under a CAT within six months from the ‘validation date’, unless both parties agree to an extension. The ‘validation date’ is the date on which the relevant authority has received the last piece of information required/requested. The relevant authority will also provide other details relating to the CAT.
Importantly, once a CAT request is submitted to a relevant authority, the relevant authority must not sell the property to any other party until the request has been dealt with (unless the property was already advertised for sale or lease or negotiations to transfer or lease the asset have already begun with a third party). The relevant authority will confirm in its acknowledgement if the prohibition applies in each case.
In addition to the information set out in the request, the relevant authority may ask for further details on how the Community Transfer Body will fund its plans for the property and the relevant skills/experience/knowledge that the body has to implement the plans. The relevant authority must agree to the CAT unless it has reasonable grounds to refuse the CAT request, and should make a decision within six months from receipt of a CAT request (see above).
When considering a CAT request, the relevant authority must consider the impact that Community Transfer Body’s plans for the property would have in relation to;
- promotion or improvement of
- economic development
- public health
- social wellbeing
- environmental wellbeing, or
- reducing inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage
The relevant authority must also make the decision in a manner which encourages equal opportunities and complies with equal opportunity requirements.
There is a lot to consider as an organisation looking to pursue a CAT, due to the unique and sometimes restrictive nature of the CAT process. To view all considerations please click here.