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Friday, 9 September 2016

ACV Status and the Former Library at Preston

I promised yesterday to cover the complications from the former Preston Library's status as an asset of community value.  This is a widely misunderstood status, which people seem to seek to gain a measure of protection for a building, but which does not really carry such protection.  I tried to explain this back when the application was made. 

The list of such assets in Brent is an odd one.  The presence of the Stonebridge Adventure Playground, since demolished, emphasizes that being listed by no means guarantees preservation.  I have always felt rather sad about the Playground as I think that had it been treated differently, at least some of its usefulness and value could have been preserved.  Unfortunately, I think that didn't happen because things like the asset listing distracted from the main point.

The curious thing about Preston Library as was is that the group that called for its listing also wants Brent Council to give it to them without marketing it in any way.  That is not a realistic prospect for other reasons, but the ACV listing makes it even less so.

If Brent Council goes for its preferred option of building 19 units on the site, those will automatically not have ACV status because the legislation does not allow ACV status for residential property.  Incidentally, there would be no delay in building from the ACV status, because the six month delay only kicks in under change of ownership.  Brent Council can demolish the existing building and build on the site without changing ownership.  They would need planning permission to do this, but Brent has accorded little weight to ACV status in previous decisions so it is not much of a factor.

There is then the question of what to do with the community space.  Here the ACV status becomes relevant as the law forced the Council to put it on the market for any community group to make a bid.  That would include say local religious organisations, people wanting to start free schools, or indeed anyone who can get 21 registered electors in Brent and the neighbouring authorities to say they want to bid.  That could be a lot of different groups, and they might very well out bid the original group. 

Incidentally, the building's recent use as a school also means the Education Secretary might try to hand it over to a free school.

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