Glovers Trust interim Chairman Brendon Owen and South Somerset District Council's David Crisfield spoke to BBC Somerset presenter Matt Faulkner on April 29th 2016, after the Trust announced the registration of Huish Park as an Asset of Community Value.
Photo © 2019
BO: We've seen over the years many football grounds that have been sold by owners, and the community that the club serves have had no redress at all. The land has been sold for housing or whatever, and the fans have had to perhaps start again and move away. We didn't want that to happen at Huish Park. I'm not saying that it was ever likely to, but we didn't want it to happen. So we thought let's use the legislation to our advantage, protect Huish Park and the surrounding land, and then if at any stage those who own the club wish to sell then at least it gives the community a chance to consider their position, and to possibly make a bid.
MF: You mentioned the word protect there. Does it really protect Huish Park? I'm thinking that fans wouldn't be able to raise enough money to buy the ground if it was up for sale?
BO: It gives you that period of protection. Obviously the owners can sell to who they like at the end of the day. Of course they can. But at least it gives the community a six month period to see if it is possible to make a bid.
MF: So David what does a group like the Glovers Trust have to demonstrate to get something registered as a Community Asset?
DC: I think there's been a bit of a description of the legislation and how to use it there. Essentially it's about giving the community a right to bid. It's not necessarily a guarantee to purchase but certainly it is a right to bid. The first thing that an established community organisation need to do is demonstrate that the asset that they wish to nominate either currently or has in its recent past been used to provide a benefit to the community.
MF: Is there anything on the list, apart from Huish Park, in South Somerset?
DC: Yes, we've got a register at the moment of around 28 live assets that are still on the register. Once nominated, assuming the owner doesn't go through the process of selling it on, and the community or someone else buying it, then it will remain on that register for up to five years.
MF: So I'll just mention the protection as well. I wondered what protection it gives the buildings and land as far as you are concerned?
DC: Well I think, as it's kind of already been explained, it gives the community a breathing space, in which if it wishes to bid and purchase the asset, should it be sold by the owner, that it gives them the time if necessary, to organise the finance in order to put in a bid, and then if it is accepted by the owner, to then purchase and take on the asset. So it's giving them a breathing space really, in which to organise and raise finance, if that is what it chooses to do.
MF: Brendon, big changes are planned for Huish Park. There's a hotel, shops and improved matchday facilities. What do you think of all of those proposals?
BO: If you're asking me personally, I don't think those plans are the best possible use of the land. From a Glovers Trust point of view, it's difficult to give you an answer, because we haven't got a mandate from members to actually give you a statement on that.
MF: I'm happy to stick with your personal view on that then - what would you rather see?
BO: To be honest, I'd prefer to see more leisure activities there, and more things for the community to do. A hotel? I just wonder could you fill a hotel there sufficiently to make a decent profit? I don't know. But leisure activities, I think, would be welcome for the town.
MF: Finally David, what is the process of all of this? Once somebody decides - and I'm not just talking specifically about the Supporters Trust here - that they are interested in one of the buildings on that list, what is the process they have to go through to register an interest and help protect its future?
DC: The first thing they need to be is a properly constituted organisation. That's defined in the legislation that they make the nomination. There is a nomination process and there is a form that they have to fill in. It's the responsibility then of the District Council to approve that nomination and make sure that it meets the requirements of the legislation. Once that decision has been made by the local authority and it is accepted as an Asset of Community Value then it can go on the register. As I've said, it can sit on the register for up to five years. If the owner chooses to sell, then there is a six week moratorium. That gives the community an opportunity to say where or not it wants to express an interest in bidding. If it then decides that it will put in a bid then there is then a further period of around four-and-a-half to five months in which the community has the period of time to raise the finances in order to put in an offer. It's then down to the owner to sell, and whether it accepts the community's bid or whether it chooses to sell to somebody else.
MF: Was there anything you wanted to add Brendon?
BO: I'd love to congratulate our manager Darren Way on doing a very job of keeping the Glovers up.
NOTE: Yeovil Town did not provide the BBC with a representative to talk about the subject on their show. However, BBC Somerset read out a message from the club saying that "the Community Asset listing does not affect their plans to develop the stadium and the land around it. They would lease land rather than sell it. As for those plans, the club are hoping they will go before South Somerset District Council at some point during the summer.
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