Lifeline to save St Albans British Legion hall

Mitchell Hall home to the St Albans branch of the British Legion

Mitchell Hall home to the St Albans branch of the British Legion - Credit: Archant

Local ex-servicemen are hailing a move by the district council to put a stumbling block before the threatened sale of their historic St Albans base.

The Royal British Legion wants to sell its St Albans branch headquarters at Verulam Road, despite vehement opposition from members of the long-running charity.

But now a lifeline has been thrown to the local branch, after St Albans district council put historic Mitchell Hall on its list of community assets.

Under the Localism Act 2011 community groups have the right to nominate local land or buildings for inclusion on the list. Once an asset is listed, the owner cannot sell it without notifying the council, and if it is to be sold, community groups have six weeks to express an interest in it.

They then have a further six months to submit a bid to acquire the asset.

But a potential downside is that the local authority is liable under the regulations to pay compensation claimed by private owners for any loss or expense incurred as a result of their property being listed.

The Government will meet costs of compensation payments of over £20,000 in a financial year.

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Don Dell, branch chairman, hailed the inclusion of Mitchell Hall, which dates back to the 1840s, to the list.

He added: “The British Legion can’t just sell it now. It gives us back-up.”

However, he added: “No one has come forward from the community to buy the premises.”

Cllr Beric Read, portfolio holder for community engagement, said the council had received 27 nominations from local groups for land and buildings to be included in the district’s list of community assets.

Other sites on the initial list include Bedmond Lane field and Keith Clegg garden in St Albans, Butterfield playing fields and nature reserve, Hitchin allotments and Wadley Hut, all of Wheathampstead.

Cllr Read said other suggested assets were now being investigated.