Protecting play & places

IMG_6016Christchurch Green was designated an ACV because it is a ‘recreational facility furthering the social wellbeing of the local community’

David Wershof from local solicitors Wiseman Lee explains how an Asset of Community Value designation can protect community buildings and spaces – like Christchurch Green playground – from being lost

As we know, living in the London area creates huge issues for central and local government trying to design planning and development policies for us who live in this crowded region. The Green Belt, which imposes restrictions on development in the Greater London area and surrounding shires, is under constant threat from eager developers.

London boroughs are required to secure deals from local landowners who release land for new houses, flats and other developments in an attempt to satisfy the never-ending demand for housing.

In contrast, Assets of Community Value (ACV) are designed to preserve a building or other land which, as the title suggests, enhances use by a particular community. This includes cultural, recreational and sporting interests. Exempted from this description are, for example, homes and hotels, as well as land assets transferred between similar businesses.

Instead of the green spaces or community buildings that we enjoy and support being gobbled up as building projects, local people represented by community associations or not-for-profit organisations can nominate an ACV, such as the children’s play area on Christchurch Green, which was nominated and approved as an ACV in 2015 at the request of the Wanstead Society.

Given that an ACV furthers social wellbeing or promotes social interests in the local community, village shops, public houses, community centres, libraries and playing fields can be preserved for common benefit. And once listed as an ACV, the community will be informed if the asset in question is put up for sale within a five-year period. If there is a wish by the community interest group to purchase it, then any possible sale is put on hold for six months to allow sufficient time to raise funds, but after that, if no sale to the community group occurs, the landowner can sell it to whomsoever they choose.

Once a particular asset is listed, instead of its destruction to make way for another block of flats, local people can celebrate its social use. However, if during the five-year period community use falls away, then the prospect of the landowner getting their asset sold raises the prospect of the asset being lost to development. If the asset is listed but the landowner objects, then there is the right to raise an appeal to an independent body called a First Tier Tribunal.

Overall, however, ACVs which are integral to local communities can be preserved, which hopefully, we can all agree is an important legal and democratic process from which we can all benefit.

Wiseman Lee is located at 9–13 Cambridge Park, Wanstead, E11 2PU. For more information, call 020 8215 1000

Author: Editor