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Community use of assets - a brief guide

Oldham Council wants to ensure residents get the best possible use out of buildings, green spaces, property and land that it owns. 

That’s why, as part of the co-operative agenda, we are fully committed to supporting ‘Community use of Assets’.

We believe in recognising and encouraging the great work that community groups do by making our assets more easily available to them.

We believe in this because it can empower communities, deliver great new benefits and also contribute to the council’s wider objectives.

Our approach includes a scheme called Community Asset Transfer (CAT) which enables the short-term use of assets to support community organisations.

This is set out in the council’s community use of assets policy:

What is community use of assets?

Community Use of Asset is the transfer (or temporary use) of land and or buildings from the council’s ownership into the stewardship and/or ownership of third sector organisations.  

Any voluntary or community body as defined in the Localism Act 2012 can apply.  

A full list of the bodies that can apply can be found in paragraph 2.5 of the Council’s community use of assets policy and can range from a community group through to a registered charity.  Where a community group is seeking transfer of an asset to them, they should carefully consider their current legal status and the implications of this for their organisation as part of their application.

Community use of Assets can take several different forms:

Use type


Meeting room hire.

One off use.

Management agreement.

For periods of up to 12 months.

Licence to occupy.

For periods of up to 12 months

Short term lease.

For periods of up to 7 years.

Long term lease.

For periods between 7 and 35 years. (In exceptional circumstances longer leases can be considered).


Protection of an asset from the open market for an agreed period to enable development of a proposal.

Community Use of Assets can involve a less-than-market-value transaction. This can be at a reduced cost or free of charge.

The level of subsidy is determined by the social, economic or environmental benefits generated by the transfer. In all instances, however - apart from short term hire - the cost of operating the asset will fall to the enterprise.

We want to hire a room from the Council.  How do we apply?

The cost is dependent on a number of factors and can be free, at cost or at a cost-plus basis.  

More information about this can be obtained when your organisation contacts the council. 

When making that first contact with us, it is important that you can tell us about the status of your organisation and the reasons the support is required. There is no need to present a business plan at that stage.

We want the Council to transfer an asset to us. How do we apply? 

The Unity Partnership manages the Council’s property assets and can explain which assets are currently available to you and you can make a direct enquiry about assets that are currently available by sending an email to and outline the general requirements that you have.  Please note that some of the Council assets are held for investment purposes.

If you are interested in Community Asset Transfer you can contact the Director of Community Services:

There are several options available to occupation. These range from a service level agreement to disposal of the property to the applicant and we can discuss all these options with you.

What work will the Council need us to do to support the transfer of an asset?

You will need a well-prepared business case with a robust financial plan that demonstrates a clear community and social demand for the proposed use.  

This is a document you need to deliver the activities that you propose and as a result the Council does not have a specific format for the business plan.  The proposal will also need to complement the council’s overall objectives.  The following link will provide some examples that you may wish to consider.

You will need to have the capacity to manage the asset and have directors or management committee members with the necessary experience and skills. 

You will also need to have good governance and financial systems in place. The proposal should not duplicate activities, services or facilities already being provided in the local community.

It is important that the plan for use of the property is sustainable. We will also need to understand and assess the benefit to the community, assess how that fit into our objectives and ensure that the proposed use complies with the relevant legislation and policies.

You will need to consider how to provide the following: 

  • A business case with full details of the identified needs that will be met by the proposed use – plus clear evidence of the organisation’s capacity and experience to manage and develop the asset.
  • A robust financial plan.  This must include detailed evidence that the use is financially sustainable over the life of the business plan and will not incur future financial liabilities for the council.  Useful information to help show this includes:Cash flow forecasts. Projected utilisation rates. Details of any financial support secured or pledged. The Council will assist by making relevant information and data available, however it should be must be noted that this may not reflect the operating costs of the proposed use.  The Council is also happy to provide relevant condition information, where this is available.  It can also provide the costs related to statutory testing and items such as security and key holding.
  • Details of the anticipated benefits that the transfer will produce and how these will be measured
  • Details of the proposed use and lease terms sought by the group.
  • Evidence of support from council officers or departments, council members, and other local stakeholders and potential funders
  • A robust risk assessment of the transfer and details of alternative arrangements in the event that the transfer proves unrealistic or not sustainable.

We understand that a business plan may not be fully developed upon application and the council can explain all the information that is required in more detail when you contact us. 

What else do we need to Consider?

Organisational Capacity:  Not all organisations have the same legal capacity to hold assets in their own name.  Similarly not all bodies have the skill sets required to manage property where public access is required.  These can have significant consequences for the organisation, their members and the public.  The council can assist you in helping to understand what is required in these instances.

Property Management:  It is important to consider the whole cost of operation of the asset (for example utilities, rates and insurances).  It is also important to consider its maintenance and compliance with relevant legislation (including Health and Safety) relating to use of the property by members of the public.  When an asset is transferred these responsibilities will pass from the council to the organisation applying for the asset.  This consideration of these issues is often called ‘due diligence’.

What other help can we get?

In addition to the support provided by Action together can offer advice, training and support to groups who are, or want to become involved in the Community Asset Transfer.  For a full understanding of what they can offer you can visit their web site or contact their Business Development Manager;

Prior to entering into a lease or licence the Council would recommend that organisation obtain their own independent professional and or legal advice.  The following web sites may be of assistance in achieving this.

What timescales can we expect?

The council wish to progress at a pace which is suitable to the organisation applying and an indicative timeline is set out below.  For practical operational reasons, if a community group does not achieve the timelines set out then the asset transfer could be placed at risk.  

Community Asset Transfer Time line


Key Actions (group)

Activities by Council


Week 1

Enquiry about asset

Check information on asset

Confirm if asset is surplus. Share guide with group.

Within 3 months

Request for asset transfer

Receive and report request. Review of progress.


It is expected that an outline of the business plan would be in place at this stage.

Within 6 months

Develop business plan

Outline plan tested e.g.: financial viability and community benefits. Review of progress.

Fixed term Licence issued (note licences will only be issued to organisations that have capacity to hold assets).

Within 9 months

Demonstrate community benefit, application for grant funding (where indicated in business plan), asset utilisation and management.

Monitor progress

Note failure to achieve agreed business objectives places occupation at risk.

Within 12 months

Delivering as per business plan.

Review progress and report outcome

Issue lease, asset transfer completed.

Marketing of assets and exclusivity

When an asset is no longer required for use by the Council it is declared to be surplus – following this the council will formally market the asset.  Please note that if a group is responding to a formal marketing exercise the timeline for progressing the transfer will be set out within those marketing details. 

Groups may also wish to apply for assets that are being sold by the council on the open market.  They can still apply but their bid will be assessed alongside other bidders for the property.