One of London’s last remaining farms could be preserved for the community after councillors agreed to grant extra safeguards for the historic site.

College Farm in Finchley has been listed as an asset of community value (ACV), meaning community groups will be given a chance to bid for the site if it goes up for sale.

Despite more than 3,000 people signing a petition in favour of the ACV bid, council officers had recommended rejecting it, claiming there was no evidence community use had occurred in the past 18 years.

But members of the community leadership and libraries committee decided on Thursday (March 7) to go ahead with the listing.

Their decision means that if the owner wants to sell the farm, community groups will have six months to come up with a bid for the site.

The farm can only be sold to a community group during that time – but the owner will be free to sell it off to any interested party once the six months is up.

College Farm, in Fitzalan Road, was built in 1886 by Sir George Barham, the founder of the Express Dairy Company.

Home to three listed buildings, it attracted thousands of visitors every year until the foot and mouth epidemic broke out in 2001.

Times Series:

Mick Crick, chairman of the Finchley Society, told the committee the Localism Act did not specify how recently an asset had to have been in use to be eligible for an ACV.

He said: “The farm could be used to grow organic vegetables, provide premises for artisan bakers and butchers, arts and crafts, education for children, provide green space and much more – all at no cost to the council.”

Under questioning from councillors, Mr Crick suggested the current owner had been preventing people from accessing the site.

He added that he knew several individuals who would be prepared to provide financial backing for a bid to bring the farm back into community use.

Cllr David Longstaff, Conservative member for High Barnet, said Mr Crick had made a very good case for how the asset could be used by the community and suggested overturning council officers’ recommendations.

Cllr Danny Rich, Labour member for West Finchley, said: “This was used by thousands of people until the owner obstructed public use. It was in community use until someone came along and obstructed the use.

“It seems to me that for all of us here that have an interest in green space in our borough, this is a complete no-brainer.”

The committee voted unanimously to approve the ACV listing.