Developer challenges bowls club's ACV listing

A developer is appealing against a council refusal to change its mind over a decision to register a bowls club that has been earmarked for redevelopment as a Localism Act community asset.

In one of the first cases of its kind, Churchill Retirement Living is appealing to the Property Chamber against the decision by Rother District Council in East Sussex to recognise the bowls club as an asset of community value (ACV).

Under the Localism Act's community right to bid, groups can nominate land and buildings with a current use that furthers the "social wellbeing or interests" of the community.

Once approved by the local authority, if an ACV is ever offered for sale, community groups have firstly six weeks to submit a bid request, and then a six-month moratorium to prepare the bid.

The site of Gulliver's Bowls Club in Bexhill-on-Sea was nominated by the Cantelupe Community Association and agreed by Rother earlier in the year. Churchill is pursuing plans, which have been refused by the council and again on appeal, to demolish the current clubhouse and build 41 sheltered apartments as well as a new bowls clubhouse and green.

Concerned about the impact of the ACV listing on the development plans, the landowner, with Churchill acting on its behalf, asked the council to review its decision in July.

But last month, Rother told Churchill it had upheld the decision, prompting the developer to submit an appeal to the Property Chamber's First Tier Tribunal.

The firm argues that Rother's reviewing officer "erred" in describing the entire site as being in "actual current use" because one of the greens and two outbuildings were not in active use. It also says the council failed to consider evidence presented on behalf of the landowner casting doubt on the viability of the club business.

Churchill's planning director, Andrew Burgess, said the decision was "fundamentally flawed".

Burgess said that, because the entire site is subject to ACV status, if the development went ahead, there would be "uncertainty" over apartment sales and Churchill might have to offer flats to the community first.

Planning lawyer Victoria Du Croz, a senior associate at Hogan Lovells, said it was notable that the council defended its decision to treat the entire site as an ACV despite acknowledging that part of it was not in use as a community facility. She added that the council highlighted the lack of provision for authorities to amend ACV applications.

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