Pubs, community centres and churches around Bognor Regis could be saved from demolition under a radical new law.
It allows groups and individuals to bid to buy buildings which are assets to their local areas.
They will have six months to put together a convincing case to take on the property once the owner puts it up for sale.
Private developers will be banned from making a move during that period.
The potential powers to retain properties for their communities have the ability to ensure some of Bognor’s most treasured buildings are saved instead of being swept away under a tide of concrete for flats and houses.
Arun District Council is about to begin compiling its community asset register of those properties with a community value.
Hugh Coster, the deputy chairman of Bognor Regis Civic Society, welcomed the chance for residents to help to protect the town’s heritage. He said: “This is definitely something we would be interested in.
“We will certainly be putting this matter to our members. That doesn’t mean to say we have any particular buildings in mind at the moment, but we want to raise awareness of this matter.
“Six months is not a sufficient time for a community group or an individual to be able to raise the funds to buy a significant asset, but we are, nonetheless, pleased to see this move.”
Bognor couple Barry and Jenny Jones have pre-empted the register by buying the former United Reformed Church in Linden Road for £300,000 for community use. They re-opened its doors three weeks ago.
Mr Jones, of Victoria Drive, urged others to follow their example to benefit the town.
“I’m all in favour of helping other people buy places like the former church.
“There must be other people like us around Bognor who have a bit of money. Why not use it for the pleasure of others rather than leave it sitting in the bank?
“Buying the church has brought us a lot of work but also a lot of pleasure.
“There are already meetings being held in there. The Regis Troopers are dancing in there and loving it. We enjoy seeing people use the place and will continue to enjoy seeing them use it.”
An Arun District Council spokeswoman said: “We are preparing to compile a database of property within the district in line with the new requirements of the Localism Act.
“Any member of the community, any community group or parish can request the council consider that a property in the district they feel may have community value is added to this list.
“It is Arun’s cabinet that makes the final decision.”
To read the full story, see today’s (Thursday, August 9) Observer.
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