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Assets of Community Value – a kick too far?

Assets of Community Value were introduced by the Localism Act 2011; regulations were made to bring the subject into force and it commenced in September 2012, writes Juliette Bradbury.
The policy was formulated on the basis that communities were losing local amenities and buildings of importance to them, from local pubs and shops to village halls and community centres.
Now a local authority can list an asset of community value if the current use furthers the wellbeing or interests of the local community. This is widely defined.
The owner of an asset proposed for listing may resist the application. If the asset is subsequently listed, the owner can ask the council to review its decision, and if that is unsuccessful, appeal to the First Tier Tribunal for further review.
If an asset is listed, the owner faces two problems.Firstly, they cannot dispose of it unless they have notified the council. The community group can then say within six weeks that they wish to be treated as a bidder; then follows a period of six months for them to sort out make a bid for the asset. The owner has to wait for up to six months before being able to sell.

"There are concerns that the listing scheme can be used by objectors to delay development"

Secondly, listing means the planning authority can decide that it is a material consideration when determining a planning application. Since September 2012 quite a few local authorities have registered assets following public nominations for amenities such as pubs, shops, village halls, museums, community centres, allotments, churches and playing fields.
There are concerns that the listing scheme can be used by objectors to delay development and to cause problems to the owner. In April, Manchester United supporters applied to list Old Trafford as an asset. Listing would stop the club selling the ground or moving to another stadium, and had major financial implications to a club with an estimated debt of £370million. When it was announced on 1 August that Old Trafford had been listed, the supporters encouraged fans at other clubs to take action, too.
Listing a premier league club stadium can trigger fluctuations in share prices. It is most unlikely that the local community could ever get funding of several millions of pounds to buy the stadium.
Was the listing of a major football ground within the spirit and guidance of assets of community value? Probably not. But the reaction of Eric Pickles would suggest otherwise as he said he was “delighted” with the decision which ensured that “even a global iconic institution like Manchester United will remain rooted in the community in which it was founded”.
Juliette Bradbury is an associate in the Planning Team at Gateley LLP. She has experience of advising on all types of development schemes and planning law.

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