I was interested to see the report that a group is seeking Asset of Community Value (ACV) status for the former Preston Library. This is the same group that previously announced they want to take the building over if it becomes vacant next year. I blogged previously that there are extensive problems with the idea of this group taking over a taxpayer asset for a peppercorn rent, as they hope. What surprises me is that making the building an asset of community value would make these problems worse not better.
Assets of Community Value status has two main effects. The most important is that someone trying to sell or lease the building can be made to wait six months to allow community groups to see if they can find the funding to pay for it. At the end of that period, the owner can either accept the bid, or sell to someone else. The second is that the ACV status can be considered as a "material consideration" by planners considering a planning application.
The first of these conditions makes it basically impossible for the Council to simply transfer the building at a peppercorn rent as the Preston group hopes. In fact, the Council as owner would be forced to put it up for any community group to make a bid. In other words, ACV status effectively compels the Council to put it on the market. If, say, a church were to express an interest the Council would be required to give it six months to raise the funding. This was exactly the reason that the owner in the case of the former Kensal Rise Library could not simply lease the building to them prior to Planning permission. It was precisely the ACV status that created the complication.
After six months it becomes more interesting. A private owner could simply sell to who they liked at the price they liked, including a lower price if they wanted to. The Council has a fiduciary duty to get best value for the taxpayer, as I explained here. If it had a higher bid from another group, it might consider itself legally obliged to take it, disappointing the group that secured ACV status whilst seeking to take the building over for a peppercorn rent.
ACV and Planning
The Planning consequences of ACV status are slighter. I suspect in both the Kensal Rise and The Queensbury cases, the campaigners involved sought it just as a way of making it harder for the owner to sell and/or develop the site. That doesn't appear to be the aim in the Preston case.
ACV status would be a "material consideration" for planning, but that just means the Planners think about it. They may not give it much weight. Brent's existing policies resist loss of community space, and it was this existing policy that was given most weight in planning officer advice to the Committee in both the Kensal Rise and Queensbury cases. In neither case, did the Council resist developing most of the site for housing. The limits of using the planning system to block development were also exposed in the Barham Park case.
I therefore find it hard to see the logic of why the campaigners to take over this building want it to have ACV status.
A comment has been added that this post does not give the whole picture. Could I ask the anonymous commentator to state what he thinks "could mislead"?