Communities and Highland Council members met yesterday (Wednesday 17 August) and agreed on the annual Community Asset Transfer Report for the Scottish Government to inform policy and practice at local and national level.
Chair of the Communities and Places Committee, Cllr Graham MacKenzie, said: “We welcome the community asset transfers that have taken place over the past year: the council has accepted 12 asset transfer applications and refused no applications in the year 2021/22.
“This is great news for local communities where people are empowered to advance local priorities and projects and make a difference in their local areas.”
Among the community asset transfers agreed in 2021/22:
- 6 were for ownership; 4 for leases; 2 for access rights or short-term occupancy agreements.
- 8 fell under the Community Empowerment Act
- 4 have been dealt with under the general regulations on the disposal of goods.
- Discounts on sales through CAT ranged from 71% to 100% of market value.
- Discounts on leases through the CAT ranged from 0 to 100% of market rental value.
- Rebates on the potential capital value of assets given to community bodies amounted to £255,996.
- Discounts on potential rental income totaled £1,999 per year.
- Capital receipts for the council from transfers to community ownership totaled £1,004.
The Community Asset Transfer (CAT) process in Highland continues to support community-led regeneration, social enterprise, projects to increase local participation and engagement, health and well-being, refurbished facilities and the provision of new and improved local services, including visitor management facilities.
Since the introduction of asset transfer legislation in 2017, the council has transferred 22 assets and approved a total of 45 applications.
Asset transfer requests accepted in 2021/22 are typical of the type of requests seen in recent years; a combination of creating new facilities, expanding or upgrading existing facilities, or restoring previous facilities/services.
The focus is on visitor facilities, health and wellness projects, and recreation and sports related projects. Regeneration, community development and income generation are all key themes and a desire to improve local communities at the heart of all applications that have been approved. The details of each request can be found in Annex 1 of the report.
The CAT submitted to the Scottish Government sets out recommendations to further improve the CAT process for communities by identifying a number of improvements that could increase uptake of CAT.
They include the following:
- Availability of start-up and capital development funds to support the completion of community projects following the acquisition of land and buildings and expert legal support for community organizations
- A partnership approach to supporting community groups is crucial to enable groups to take ownership of assets. Many of the ambitious projects associated with CAT applications have grown out of community groups with professional development agent capacity, but volunteer-led projects have sometimes struggled to meet the administrative demands of the CAT process.
- Consideration should be given to targeting national/central funding to less developed areas and groups as well as those without independent financial means, eg funding for wind farms.
- Sources of post-acquisition grant support – Community transfer agencies have highlighted particular challenges related to the limited availability of flexible financial sources to fund post-transfer asset redevelopment. This was also highlighted as a concern at the regional level by public sector partners and at the national level by the DTAS-COSS.
Cllr MacKenzie added: ‘The council has set up a community loan fund and supports groups through a range of local funding opportunities, but a national fund for this purpose would be welcome.’
Details of Community Asset Transfers in the Highlands and how to apply can be found on the council’s website at: www.highland.gov.uk/cat or email at firstname.lastname@example.org