As part of the government's Localism Act, which came into force this year, Salford Council has to maintain a list of Assets of Community Value and under the Act, local groups have a right to nominate any building or land to be listed.
The asset, which is defined as `a building or other land', can be listed if it furthers the community's `social well-being or social interests and is likely to do so in the future'. The asset can be privately owned or owned by the Council, and the only exclusions are residential property and caravan sites.
Once the asset is listed, nothing happens unless the owner wants to sell or `dispose' of it. Then there's a six week window where community groups can declare that they are a potential bidder. If this happens, a six month period kicks in for the group to try and raise the money to buy the asset.
However, even after six months, the `owner is free to sell to whomever they choose and at whatever price'. Which makes it all a bit toothless and useless. And, what's more, the owner of the `asset' can claim compensation `for loss and expense incurred through the asset being listed'. Meanwhile there's no financial help in the Act for community groups wanting to take over `assets of community value'.
Indeed, despite Government Minister, Don Foster, claiming that this will "aim to encourage more of this type of community-focused, locally-led action by providing an important tool to help communities looking to take over and run local assets" it's almost the opposite…unless they've got access to loads of money and can outbid any other developer. Also Salford Council has the final say as to whether the `asset' should listed.
What the Act does do, however, is stop deals happening behind closed doors, providing that the asset is listed, while the six month period might allow for a community driven campaign to try and save the asset from developers claws.
For most of Salford's heritage it's too late. But there might be hope for Buile Hill Park Mansion, which still hasn't been properly sold to John Wilkinson and co.
Community groups eligible to get buildings and land listed include charities, community interest groups, neighbourhood forums and any group with a membership of at least 21 local people who appear on the electoral roll within the local authority, or a neighbouring local authority.
No doubt, Salford Council will provide details of how to list a community asset, once the decision has been ratified today… May we suggest that the `list' kicks off with Salford City's Moor Lane ground and Buile Hill Mansion…
For further details see the Department for Communities and Local Government Advice Notes – click here