From 21 September 2012, the Localism Act 2011 has empowered local communities to delay sales or long lettings of "assets of community value" (community assets) which "further the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community".
Local authorities are to maintain lists of public/private community assets while interested local voluntary and community groups may nominate other assets for possible inclusion, such as pubs, shops, leisure centres, post offices, car parks and marketplaces.
Owners of such properties must notify the local authority of a proposed disposal which triggers a moratorium period lasting up to six months. If this ends without a successful bid from a local group, the seller has a further 12 months to contract on better terms with a third party. If after 12 months contracts have not been exchanged, the process is repeated.
The practical implications are untested but there may be loopholes - please contact us for further advice.
A Government guidance document for local authorities can be viewed here.