Friday25 July 2014

If a pub isn't a community asset what is ?

From: Amanda Baillieu’s blog

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The fate of a posh pub in Chelsea is not something BD readers would normally care about. .  

The Phene Arms is not listed, and in the words of the planning barrister Timothy Comyn – acting for its owner the property developer Robert Bourne and his wife Sally Greene - it’s ‘an establishment frequented by the Hooray Henrys of today’.

But Bourne’s appeal against Kensington and Chelsea’s refusal to allow the pub to be turned into a luxury house could have drawn a line in the sand for “pub-to-home” transformations particularly in London and the south-east.

When the council turned the application down last year it was able to cite the NPPF ( at that time in draft ) which clearly states that  pubs  are  ‘ community facilities’, and  that buildings like the Phene Arms, while not listed, are ‘non—designated heritage assets’ which should be kept if at all possible.

Of course, this has all come a bit late in the day.  Since 2005 over 6500 pubs have closed, at a rate of roughly 12 a week. Those not converted into supermarkets or flats, are likely to be shuttered and dead.  

The situation is grim and only active local petitions and campaigns seem to have had any success. But when the Localism Act and the NPPF came along it looked like pubs might at last have a lifeline.

In fact, on Wednesday  the Inspector did dismiss Bourne’s appeal, but he waived aside the pub’s role as a community asset citing instead the local conservation area saying that the change from a pub to a house would harm it. 

Had he reached a different conclusion, the Phene Arms would have been listed as an ‘asset of community value’ and the well-heeled  clientele could then have clubbed together to buy it. Would the Inspector have come to a different view if the pub has been in the country, or in a small market town ?

It is hard to say. But so far at least, very few pubs have been viewed as a community asset and it is unclear what hoops they need to go through to achieve this status.

Is it down to how many meetings they hold in the back room, or the cross-section of clientele they attract ? Is a ’ community public house’  so different to the average boozer,  and if it is could someone in the Planning Inspectorate spell it out.

The real point is that people are passionate about pubs in a completely different way than they are about shops and as long people want to go to them, they are worth keeping.

While the disappearance of yet another large chain store like Jessops or HMV is greeted with weary resignation, pubs are different.  This is not just to do with alcohol, it’s that we have stood by and watched as they’ve been gradually  wiped out and been powerless to do anything to stop it.

Now there is legislation that supports keeping pubs, will anything change?  Based on what we’ve seen this week, it looks unlikely.


Image courtesy: www.phenecricket.com

Readers' comments (7)

  • I am a share holder of a community pub in Norfolk that was going to be sold, probably for housing. It has been the focus of the community since the 18th century and since it became a community pub it has been awesome. Everybody from every demographic has a massive love for what has been achieved from laborers to judges to millionaires. This country has to save its pubs, they are the life blood and equalizer for different types of people to socialize and be merry. When a pub goes a part of the community dies with it.

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  • Here's another example published in the "Camden New Journal":

    "'Loadsamoney' comedian Harry Enfield faces battle with neighbours over plans to turn Primrose Hill pub into new family-sized house"

    Link: http://tinyurl.com/bak8luf

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  • How can a pub still be the Hub of Community when a pub is sold by The Brewery or whoever surely The so called Hub of Community has become redundant therefore an alternative viable scheme should be negotiated with the Local Authority .
    Surely the previous Pub had part residential use and retail as many of these would have provided sleeping quarters for The Landlords .
    Seems unreasonable this development has not been granted approval .
    Anthony Doody MCIAT
    Chartered Architectural Technologist

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  • Robert Park

    The problem with pubs is that they are fantastic large buildings that can easily be converted to residential use, and they tend to sit in very desirable locations. It is the current value of housing compared to commercial use in London that has put these buildings under threat. The traditional breweries seem to have lost interest in their own market, and have instead opted for property development as a way out of financial strife. So landlords are pressed by unreasonable pricing strategies and pubs become run-down, close, then sit empty for a while. Eventually a planning application is lodged for change of use. The London Plan tells us that we need more housing in London, and an unviable business is a case for conversion. However, in my area, when the planners hold out, I have seen a number of dilapidated old pub buildings picked up by independent freeholders, and transformed into fantastic new businesses that have really benefited our community. As well as providing the opportunity for a cheeky few pints with friends and family, they also provide rooms for meetings, organise outings, serve great food, hold quiz nights and accommodate birthday parties, wedding receptions and wakes. This is the way forward for our pubs. We need them, they have been the hub of our community for many generations, and to suggest that they are not community assets is ridiculous.

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  • amanda baillieu

    If anyone has direct experience of trying to get their local pub listed as a community asset, and what that entails, please let us know. We'd be really interested in running a piece about pubs and the NPPF. Thanks, Amanda.

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  • If it was that much of an 'asset' then surely it would be economically viable as a pub, wouldn't it?

    Or do we want someone else to pay for it to be open, staffed, repaired etc.. so we can have warm fuzzy feelings when we walk past on our way to the wine bar around the corner?

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  • D Ingram

    Amanda, as the local CAMRA Pubs Protection Officer in Wandsworth I have successfully secured ACV status for two pubs in the borough- the first the Castle in Battersea High Street with the support of the local MP Jane Ellison, and the second the Wheatsheaf in Tooting Bec 2 weeks ago As an historic environment & planning professional and CAMRA activist I have been involved with five other successful ACV applications across the country, as well as doing reps at a dozen or more planning appeal hearings and public inquiries (including the Phene Arms and the Cross Keys) on proposals to demolish or convert to residential. I'm also a shareholder in two ACV community pubs. My work on pubs protection for CAMRA resulted in the national Campaigner of the Year 2013 award in April. Please contact me, I should be delighted to talk to you. Dale Ingram dale.ingram@camraswl.org.uk

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