It is essential that you identify at an early stage which property is the right one to deliver your project objectives, before you spend time and resources exploring the viability of any specific one.
Your group needs to take time to ensure they choose the right asset, and needs to try to be objective about this process. This may be difficult if the group and project objectives have formed around an attempt to save a specific building. However, there are many examples of groups taking on, or seeking to take on, a building purely to save it from closure, change of use or demolition, who haven’t thoroughly considered whether the asset is the right one for delivering their project objectives. As a result many of them have run into real difficulties later on down the line, once they have become fully responsible for the property as owners or lessees. This can include significant financial liabilities.
Ensuring you avoid placing your community in such a situation is a key responsibility of any group that has its community’s best interests at heart, as well as the interests of those who may end up financing the project. If the local community has very strong attachments or sentiments towards the building you are currently looking at, it may be easier and more effective to commission someone from outwith the community, such as independent consultants, to look at whether or not it is the right property.
The property (whether land or buildings) that your group chooses to deliver its project from will obviously determine the scale and complexity of the job of bringing it into community ownership, transforming it to ensure that it can deliver the benefits you envisage for your community, and managing and maintaining it into the future. Getting a feel for what is going to be involved in taking on a specific property will also help you more closely define your project objectives and provide good background information for the initial assessment of the project's feasibility.
There are a number of factors to consider when choosing your asset. These are discussed in more detail in the following sections, with checklists included to help you work through each issue in relation to potential sites for your project.
If you can, it is well worthwhile visiting examples of successful community asset projects. These can be found across almost any kind of activity in any kind of building, so lots of things are possible and there is plenty of experience to draw on - you should not have to ‘reinvent the wheel’. DTA Scotland can direct you to examples of community-run projects that are happy to share their knowledge and experience. Your project team and stakeholders may also have suggestions of places to visit and learn from. Try to visit groups who are running an asset that delivers objectives similar to your own, and ideally speak with those who were involved in taking the asset into community control and/or are responsible for managing the asset now.