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Hopes that new laws can help preserve community assets in Wells

11:00 14 February 2013

Wells Tennis Courts. One of the town's assets likely to be featured on a list being drawn up by Wells Town Council.

Wells Tennis Courts. One of the town's assets likely to be featured on a list being drawn up by Wells Town Council.

Archant © 2008

Councillors in Wells are looking to use new laws to preserve some of the town’s most valued community assets.

Beach Road playing field, Wells Library, The Maltings and Sackhouse, Wells Scout Hut, Tug Boat Yard, the doctor’s surgery and the town’s car parks and tennis courts are all likely to feature on a list being drawn up by Wells Town Council.

This list is to be sent to North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) within the next two to three weeks.

The town council wants the items on it to be placed on a so-called Assets of Community Value Register.

If accepted this will mean that Wells Town Council will be informed if any of these assets are put up for sale.

The town council would be given a chance to express an interest in buying that asset and a period of six months to raise the money needed to bid for it.

Wells Town Council clerk Greg Hewitt said: “These new laws have been brought in as part of the government agenda to give more power to local communities.

“The idea is to help communities across the UK to save things like village halls, local pubs and shops.

“There are several assets in Wells that are important to the local community and we are putting a list together now.”

The laws come under the Localism Act 2011 and came into effect on September 21 last year.

They require local councils to maintain a list of community assets.

Nominations for community assets can be made by town and parish councils or by groups with a connection to a local community.

Individuals cannot make nominations.

Assets can include items that are privately owned as well as things owned by trusts, groups and county and district councils.

The right to bid only applies when an asset’s owner decides to dispose of it.

There is no compulsion on the owner to sell.

The scheme would not give first refusal to the town council. The council is not given a right to buy the asset, only to bid for it.

This will mean any future bids the town council may make may be unsuccessful.

Certain types of land, most notably residential property, are exempt from being placed on the register.

Owners of property placed on the register may appeal against its listing and can claim compensation if they can demonstrate its value has been reduced.

An NNDC spokesman said he believes Wells Town Council’s list may be the first list of Assets of Community Value that it receives.

Mr Hewitt said: “To buy anything the town council would have to pay market value and the new law doesn’t give us first refusal or special discounts.

“But we are living in times were local authorities are looking to save money and one way of doing this is selling off their assets.

“The new law gives little communities like ours opportunities to safeguard these things that would be missed if they were sold off for something that would no longer serve as a benefit to the local community.”

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