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Those backing the move believe the link will make NAVA more effective and easier to run.

A recent NAVA newsletter outlined the proposals and asked the membership to return votes by August 4.

If endorsed, NAVA would become a new body within the NAEA umbrella structure, handing over its administrative and financial functions to the central body, but retaining its own name and identity. It would effectively become the auctioneering and chattels arm of NAEA.

Although there is a widely held feeling within NAVA that the change would benefit the association, which has faced practical difficulties in organising itself over the last few years, there is also a strong feeling in some quarters against the idea of the merging with the estate agents.

According NAVA secretary Robert Beaumont, the NAEA want to create a new holding company for organisations like NAVA, who would have their own faculties. This company would set budgets for each faculty to deal with its own needs, but would also provide a larger marketing budget. The structure is similar to that under which the art and antiques faculty of the RICS operates.

Mr Beaumont also pointed to the advantages of holding training courses, having more formal entrance requirements, and gaining greater recognition with the public, government and media, that joining NAEA would provide. “I’m very hopeful this plan will go through,” he told ATG. “This has to be the way forward for NAVA.

“We’ve become a somewhat fragmented association as we have members spread out across the country. It’s always the same people turning up for meetings and it’s become a bit difficult to administer.

“As part of a bigger association with 30 full-time staff things would run much more effectively. We also hope to push at the government level for a proper licensing scheme for auctioneers.”

However, some members have questioned the merits of being associated with the traditionally unpopular image of estate agents. Some founder members are worried about the resulting loss of independence.

Robert Stones, former NAVA chairman and managing director of Peter Wilson Auctioneers in Cheshire, who is in favour of the proposal to merge with NAEA, said: “I wasn’t at the last meeting, but inevitably there are those who wish to remain independent, and those equally keen to resolve the administrative and practical problems of the organisation.

“There is a general recognition that this would be a big change in terms of the history of the organisation, but also there is a feeling not to change the foundation stones on which it was built.”

NAVA, which started in 1988, has about 120 members from all walks of auctioneering – as well as members that deal with art and antiques, there are machinery, plant and insolvency auctioneers.

The poll result will be known on September 8 and a final decision will be taken at the annual general meeting on November 17.

By Alex Capon