Publication - Corporate report

St Andrews Environmental Network: asset transfer requests - report to Scottish ministers

Report by Paul Cackette, a reporter appointed by Scottish ministers, on the request for asset transfer on 19 March 2020, refused on 25 August 2020 and refused on review on 15 February 2021 .

St Andrews Environmental Network: asset transfer requests - report to Scottish ministers
Summary

Summary

Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015

Report by Paul Cackette, a reporter appointed by the Scottish Ministers

  • case reference: CAT-250-1
  • site address: Fife Council Local Office, St Mary’s Place, St Andrews KY16 9U 
  • relevant authority: Fife Council
  • appeal by St Andrews Environmental Network Ltd (StAndEN) against the review decision by Fife Council to refuse an asset transfer request relating to the Fife Council Local Office, St Mary’s Place, St Andrews
  • date of site visit: 16 August 2021
  • request for asset transfer dated 19 March 2020, refused on 25 August 2020 and refused on review on 15 February 2021 

Date of this report and recommendation: 9 September 2021.

Proposed community asset transfer of the Fife Council Local Office, St Mary’s Place, St Andrews KY16 9U

Case reference

CAT-250-1

Case type

Community asset transfer review appeal

Reporter

Paul Cackette

Relevant authority

Fife Council

Interested Parties

None

Date of application

19 March 2020

Date case received by DPEA

30 March 2021

Method of consideration and dates

 

Written submissions and accompanied site inspection on 16 August 2021

Date of report

9 September 2021

Reporter’s recommendation

Dismiss the appeal and refuse the community asset transfer request

Summary report

On 19 March 2020, the St Andrews Environmental Network Ltd (StAndEN), proceeding under the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 as a community transfer body (“the appellants”), made an application to acquire the property in part occupied by them at the Fife Council Local Office, St Mary’s Place, St Andrews KY16 9U for a price of £100,000.

Their intention is to provide facilities at that property by way of community benefit including additional community space, a drop-in clinic for energy advice, an environmental advice hub and an eco-shop to provide a local base in the town of St Andrews to buy products made and produced in an environmentally conscious manner. They wish to provide local workshops and events focusing on a low carbon lifestyle and establish a demonstration building showcasing decarbonised heating and insulation (including the improvement of the energy efficiency of listed buildings).

The application was considered by the Council initially on 25 August 2020 then on review on 15 February 2021. On each consideration, the application was refused. The appellants appealed to Scottish Ministers on 17 March.

The three critical determining issues in relation to this appeal are-

  • whether there is sufficient evidence provided in relation to the funding, sustainability and ongoing viability of the appellants proposals (and clarity about the detail of the capital development works)
  • whether best value requirements concerning the value of the property are met in relation to the proposal
  • whether services providing a public value can be maintained in a satisfactory way, if the proposal is approved

Following detailed consideration of these issues and in particular whether any concerns arising are capable of being addressed through the use of conditions as permitted within the statutory framework, this report concludes that the vision set out by the appellants in their proposal is clear and that the intentions for the future use of the building for those proposed purposes fit well with the underlying policy aspirations of the 2015 Act in supporting community benefit. In all of these respects, the appellants make a strong case for their application.

The grounds of refusal based on a sale for less than best value or because of the impacts on provision of public services in Fife are not in themselves considered reasonable as a basis to refuse the appeal. There are though legitimate concerns in both regards that require to be recognised and protected against by the imposing of conditions if the appeal is allowed.

However, for the reasons set out here and here, the appellants are considered to have failed to satisfy the necessary requirements in establishing the viability, sustainability and funding for their proposals (and providing adequate clarity in the detail of proposed capital works).

Notwithstanding those conclusions on the other critical determining factors, it is considered essential for the appellants to do so in order to meet the requirements of the statutory framework for a community asset transfer and associated guidance.

It is recommended for that reason that the appeal in this case be dismissed.