I was at the council meeting on Wednesday 25th May to hear the case for the Odeon.
It struck me that there was an issue with how the Localism Act 2011 was being applied. Section 88 lists the criteria under which an asset can be designated Asset of Community Value (ACV).
Its criteria are completely unrelated to financial viability, and intentionally so.
This part of the act was designed to give communities the *appropriate time to put together a viable bid to run the asset*.
I understand that in the meeting, the council set a deadline for financial viability that they then completely ignored anyway by taking the decision the following day, before their (in any case clearly prejudicial and unworkable) deadline.
But granting ACV on condition of meeting financial criteria is not only unsupported by the law, it is contrary to the spirit in which it was written.
As I understand it, the council should look at granting ACV status on the criteria of section 88 of the Localism Act 2011 alone.
This is precisely because it designed as a tool to give communities powers against property developers (it was targeted to allow communities to ensure village pubs and shops can't just be turned into expensive second homes). The status is granted separately to whether or not there is, at that stage, a financially viable bid to run the asset.
As I understand it, AVC status can only be denied on criteria of section 88, and the council must give written reasons why the proposed asset does not meet them those specified criteria.
Once the asset has ACV status the community then has 6 months to put in an expression of interest when the current landowner proposes to change its use.
They then have a further 6 months to put a viable bid together.
This means that the community can take up to a year to develop a financial plan for the asset.
The Act was designed to give precisely this space to communities whose assets are under threat *even when that threat is precisely that the asset is not financially viable*.
When I was in the meeting, the application for ACV was being conflated with the viability of the community bid to run it.
This must not be allowed to stand.
ACV status should be granted independently of financial considerations.
The law was created in order to protect financially challenged, but vital community businesses. As a result, financial considerations HAVE to be separate from the conferment of ACV status.
I don't think the council's decision is legal: as I've said, financial criteria are not listed by Section 88 and applying them is *contrary to the purpose of the laws pertaining ACV.* Unless the council can find reasons under Section 88 why Kensington Odeon doesn't meet ACV criteria then ACV status should be granted and the community will have a full year to pull the finances together to run the building.
What was also clear at the meeting that while there was a party political split about the future of the Odeon, all the councillors that I heard speaking were speaking as if ACV require financial plans for their future.
They do not, and must not.
Otherwise, there is literally no point to this area of law because such community assets are only thrown into uncertainty by financial challenges.
If the same challenge that puts the asset under threat can be used to deny its status as an Asset of Community Value, it would be an unwinnable status for precisely those assets that the legislation is designed to protect.
RBKC as ever need careful scrutiny (and perhaps some basic training).