Last year, the Serpentine Community Farm community interest company (CIC) applied to High Peak Borough Council to register the farm as an Asset of Community Value under the terms of the Localism Act. On February 2nd the Borough Council published their assessment that the application should be rejected.
Looking its history it seems that the term Asset of Community Value might have been invented for the Serpentine Community Farm. Volunteers from Buxton and other towns and villages in the High Peak have come together to transform a run-down and derelict council nursery into a thriving area of local food production, where innovative methods of growing in our difficult climate are tried out.
Thousands of volunteer hours have gone into clearing the land of debris, restoring an existing greenhouse, installing two polytunnels, and building raised beds. The farm is used by members of the local community including children, young people and people with learning disabilities to grow vegetables, herbs and fruit, providing health benefits and skill development - not to mention the growth of a real community spirit as people have worked together on the project.
The Serpentine Community Farm CIC also aim to expand into all aspects of sustainable food management, including preserving, cooking, and dealing with waste.
Under the terms of the Localism Act, Serpentine Community Farm to be considered as an Asset of Community Value it must further the interests and wellbeing of the local community. It seems clear that the Community Farm is doing this, so why the recommendation for rejection? The council's report gives two reasons:
The fact that the Localism Act doesn't make it clear how to treat sites where the entire area is not being used to further the interests and wellbeing of the local community. The site of the old council nursery includes several outbuildings that are not covered by the license granted to the farm. Instead of extending the license to cover these buildings - as the CIC repeatedly requested, the council have allowed them to fall into disrepair and now this is used as an obstacle to granting the farm community asset status. The best resolution to this is clearly to include the whole area in the designation and allow the community farm to bring the rest of the site into the service of the community.
That it is not realistic to assume that the site will continue to be used to further the interests and weillbeing of the local community for the next five years, because the council are considering selling the land. This implies that the decision to sell is a deciding factor and negates the rights laid down in the Localism Act. But, in fact, it is precisely in the case of proposed sale that communities have nominated land or buildings as Assets of Community Value.
The High Peak Brough Council Select Corporate Committee will discuss the report on the nomination of the Serpentine Community Farm as an Asset of Community Value before passing it to the Executive Team for a final decision.
High Peak Borough Council Select Corporate Committee
Monday 12th February, 6.30pm
The Cafe, Pavilion Gardens,
Many of you will have signed the online and paper petitions to protect the farm. Now there's a chance to show your support in person.