A Senedd inquiry into community ownership has been launched, after a report found Welsh communities to be "the least empowered in Britain".

The inquiry will consider the legal and financial barriers faced by communities who want to take control of local assets - such as pubs, parks, libraries and music venues - or who want to set up their own facilities and services from scratch.

The move comes after a report by the Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA), a thinktank based in Cardiff, found that people in Wales have almost no statutory rights to take back beloved local land and buildings - in stark contrast to Scotland's "first right of refusal" and England's "community right to bid".

The report, Our Land, recommended that the Welsh Government introduce new legislation that would enshrine community rights in law, and found overwhelming support for the proposal in a YouGov survey of the Welsh public. 

IWA director Auriol Miller said at the time: "“We’ve seen examples of community ownership giving derelict buildings new leases of life, generating renewable energy under local ownership, and tackling the second homes crisis through community-led housing. 

Barriers faced by Welsh communities who want to take ownership of local land and buildings will be considered in a new inquiry. (Pictures: Andy Dingley; VisitWales)Guildford Crescent, Cardiff, was at the centre of controversy in the capital when developers demolished the beloved street despite community opposition. (Picture: Alan Hughes)

“However, our research found a loud and clear message from communities across Wales: that the current system works against, rather than with communities who are attempting to take control of local assets for community benefit. The time has come for this to change.” 

The report came amid ongoing debate about the ownership of Welsh land, buildings and other assets - with much focus directed at housing.

Second homes - some used as holiday rentals - account for a significant proportion of the housing stock in some parts of Wales. Eleven percent of the houses in Gwynedd, for example, are second homes, as are nine percent of the houses in Pembrokeshire’s Sir Benfro community.

In March, The National reported that the majority of Wales's most prolific landlords are actually based in England.

The Welsh Government is also currently pursuing devolution of Crown Estate assets - the British monarchy owns and controls the Welsh seabed out to 12 nautical miles, along with 50,000 acres of upland - and a Bill for this purpose was introduced by Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts in Parliament last year.

Harry Thompson, the IWA's economic policy lead and the author of the Our Land report, welcomed news of the Senedd inquiry, but said change was "long overdue".

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He said: "Wales has fallen far behind on community empowerment, but this is the first step in implementing an idea whose time has come.

"It is time the Welsh Government and Senedd create a pathway and set of rights for communities to take control of privately-owned assets, such as those in Scotland.

"Only when we have this full set of community empowerment measures will we see an end to the constant stream of stories about powerless communities in Wales losing beloved community assets - such as pubs, music venues, libraries, community halls and more.”

The Senedd inquiry is currently accepting evidence from the public, with the deadline for submissions on Friday 24 June 2022.

You can add your view here.

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