Business Law: Toby Pound on the protection provided for an ‘Asset of Community Value’

Toby Pound, a partner at Barker Gotelee.

Toby Pound, a partner at Barker Gotelee. - Credit: Archant

It will be a great relief to all Ipswich Town supporters to know that their much cherished football stadium and practice pitch in Portman Road have been accepted for nomination as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).

But does that mean that the memories of the great Ramsey and Robson teams will be preserved there for ever and that the stadium will never be flattened and redeveloped for some other use?

The concept of ACVs was introduced by the Localism Act 2011 as part of the Government’s “community empowerment” provisions. Each local authority was required to keep a list of ACVs, nominated by parish councils or voluntary or community bodies with a local connection.

Once on the list, an ACV will usually remain there for a protected period of five years. During that period, an owner intending to sell or to grant a long lease must give notice to the local authority. This triggers a moratorium period of six weeks during which a community group can put itself forward as a potential bidder.

For land to become an ACV, it must satisfy a two-stage test: the current use of the land or building must “further the social well-being or social interests of the local community” and there must be a realistic prospect of those benefits continuing.

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If a community group can show itself to be a serious bidder for the ACV, it effectively has six months to prove that it can meet the owner’s price and raise the necessary funds. During that six month period, the owner cannot sell the ACV to another bidder. If a deal cannot be reached within six months, the owner can then dispose of the ACV without restriction.

The weakness of the process is that the community only has a right to bid, not a right to buy. There is no compulsion on the owner of the ACV to sell to the community group and he will usually only sell if there are no other bidders.

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The question remains how the community of Ipswich would be able to raise sufficient funds to buy Portman Road if the football club decided to relocate. The site in the centre of town would, no doubt, be worth several millions of pounds, probably way beyond the pockets of the most passionate supporters.

: : Toby Pound is a partner at law firm Barker Gotelee.

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