Planning to get involved with an ‘Asset Transfer’?

Planning to get involved with an ‘Asset Transfer’?

Local councils are having to cut spending amidst tightening budgets. ‘Community Asset Transfer’ involves handing over responsibility for public buildings and land to local Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) groups.

The asset transfer scheme is a great opportunity for local communities to take over the responsibility for sites and buildings. Instead of being auctioned or sold to private sector developers, the scheme allows councils to transfer the assets at no or minimal cost to local groups and community groups.

Here at ep we’ve been active in advising local groups on ways in which assets can be acquired, developed, reused, sub-let, and how they can be used to generate income.

What have we learned? Well, if you are thinking of asking your local council about a transfer – firstly make sure you give us a call – having a plan is critical – planning is everything, carry out research and be:

Informed: Get to know exactly what you would be taking on, the condition of the asset, the scope of work that may be needed to repair and maintain the building and the ongoing work involved with running a property or open space.

Innovative: Don’t be constrained by history! A building or park may have more than one suitable use. A handover of responsibility is an ideal time to adapt the building or use it for a new purpose altogether!

Liberdade is a Community Development Trust that has been championing the learning-disabled community in the North East of England since 2003 through drama, workshops, social enterprises and delivering training for hundreds of organisations. Since 2014 we’ve helped with their bidding for Gosforth Civic Hall to create a home for their work, to provide a new community centre and retain a performance space for professional tours and Liberdade Drama. In 2016 they secured funding to create a community garden space to enhance the existing facilities. Ethical Partnership provided a visualisation of new glazing options and the layout plans for submission. This helped the group really understand what they could achieve and gave them confidence that they were spending their funding wisely. This is just one example of how a space can be preserved and its uses broadened for the benefit of the local community. Check out their website for more news and great ideas.

Inspired: Look at what other groups have done! Get advice and ideas from other who have been through the process already. What did they find helpful or challenging? What do they wish they knew at the start of the process? What, if anything, would they have done differently? If you are based in the North-East, why not get in touch with our friends at VONNE who will be able to point you in the right direction?

Investigative: It always pays to ‘do your homework’. Get professional guidance on how you could make the most of your asset transfer opportunity, including the potential for applying for permission for change of use. A small initial investment in getting sound advice ‘pays dividends’ in helping you to identify opportunities and avoid problems. We can help you understand the true potential value of the asset and recommend the best course of action to ensure a viable future. (See our blog post on finding the true value of your property)

Insured: Whilst insurance might seem like the last thing on a very long and somewhat daunting list of tasks, it is important to be informed about what you do (and do not!) need to insure to run a successful community asset. This should be factored into both the business plan and the decision-making process. Our friends at Talbot Jones Risk Solutions are a friendly Gateshead-based Insurance Brokers who are experienced in underwriting heritage buildings and who love to provide an excellent service to charities and SMEs.

Invested: Charities and community groups exist to invest in the lives of those around them, but juggle too much demand with not enough funding. So, if you are exploring Asset Transfer for your CDT, CIC or local group, you might be (understandably) reticent to spend money on professional advice without the certainty of a concrete outcome.

However, you could consider a one-off fundraising campaign to cover these costs. You might be surprised at how willing people are to invest back into your organisation and the work you do –  and a few hundred pounds could be enough for the initial consultation. A platform such as justgiving or gofundme might provide the support you need to raise awareness and collect donations. If you are a UK-registered charity you may also be able to benefit from a ‘match funding’ campaign. Again, our friends at VONNE would be well-placed to advise you on this. The Good Finance website is also a useful source of information.

Interested? If you are interested in the potential gains of Asset Transfer, get in touch! We can advise on all planning related matters and an initial conversation about the scope and cost of our services may prove more fruitful than you would think.