Wales lags behind England and Scotland in the rights the public enjoy to identify assets of community value.
That finding has come from the Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA), which called in a report Our Land: Communities and Land Use for more rights for local communities to access land and assets for shared benefit.
It said Welsh communities were “the least empowered in Britain [and] have almost no statutory rights, which stands in stark contrast to the community right of first refusal in Scotland, or the community right to bid in England”.
Polling for the IWA by YouGov found strong support for its recommendations, with 68% of respondents agreeing “the Welsh Government should begin work on a Community Empowerment Bill that establishes a register of community assets, and gives communities a statutory first right of refusal over these assets when they are proposed for sale or transfer”.
There was also support for the idea of a Community Asset Fund, based on the Scottish Land Fund, and for a support package for communities seeking to buy or lease land or assets.
The IWA cited 59% support for the idea that the Welsh Government should apply a social value policy to public bodies looking to dispose of or lease land or assets, with sales made to those who offer the widest social benefits and not necessarily the highest price.
The report said the main concern raised by community groups about accessing land was the lack of a clear process.
Auriol Miller, IWA director, said: “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.
“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.”