By Max Clarke

Government plans to give community groups a first right to buy community assets, including shops, could damage retail businesses of all sizes and should be rethought, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has said.

"At a time when the Government is rightly putting growth and job creation at the top of its agenda and recognising retail's key role in achieving that, it must give businesses the certainty they need to make investment decisions,” said British Retail Consortium Director of Business and Regulation, Tom Ironside.

“‘Right to Buy' will only work if local needs and decision-making operate within a sensible national framework so retailers small and large can buy and sell efficiently."

Publishing its response to the Government's consultation on the ‘Community Right to Buy', the BRC said the proposal would make it harder for an individual to sell a shop they owned — putting people off buying shops in future — and throw up new barriers to investment, growth and jobs by discouraging business development.

As currently proposed, the ‘Right to Buy' would allow community groups to identify ‘assets with community value' including shops, plots of land and other private and public sector property. If one of these came up for sale the community group would be given the first opportunity to buy it. The group would be given time to register that intention and then to compile a business plan. This could force a delay in the sale of one of these properties for up to six months and could skew the market, reducing the value of such assets.

The BRC says the aim of saving local facilities threatened with closure is laudable but these proposals would have a range of damaging, unintended consequences.