English Heritage have just expanded their laudable information resource by adding guidance on Community Right to Bid. The idea is that if a property that has a community use comes up for sale then community groups have the right to make a bid to buy it.
There’s always a bit of a worry that, like all localism and Big Society talk, it’s a fig leaf for less statutory protection, but apart from that it seems like good news in general…. providing local authorities can be persuaded to list the asset as having community value. In the case of prehistoric sites that might be very difficult…..
EH says “The scheme is obviously principally aimed at securing the on-going community benefit of local shops, pubs, libraries and the like. These buildings will frequently also be heritage assets. Whilst their heritage value or significance cannot be described as a community use in the meaning of this regime, there is clearly nothing wrong in using this mechanism to secure the opportunity to negotiate the acquisition of important heritage assets that also have a community utility.”
Nothing wrong, but can it be done in the case of an unprotected prehistoric lump in a field? Can that be represented to local councillors as having, as the Localism Act requires, “current or recent use which can be shown to further the social wellbeing or social interest of the community”? If not then the Act is clear, “Properties which have not had a social use for some years [and some years probably includes three millennia!] or have been empty or derelict are not covered by the Act.”
This perhaps is where megaraks and picnickers and twitchers and such like come in. If they can show they’ve been regularly using a monument for a few years then the Community Right to Bid might kick in. Is it a case of use it or lose it? Does a listing on popular sites such as The Megalithic Portal and The Modern Antiquarian offer evidence that some megalithic sites, despite being empty or derelict are nevertheless furthering the social wellbeing or social interest of the community just as much as “local shops, pubs, libraries and the like”? Nothing wrong with trying to say so, EH seem to be saying.