I’ve been working with the group trying to save the Green Dragon pub in Winchmore Hill. They’ve had a major knock-back as the Council have rejected their application to register the pub as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).
They meet all the tests of being eligible as a group. The pub was still pulling pints as recently as January but it’s now, say the owners, a shop, and has been irrevocably turned into an ex-pub. That the Council appear to have taken this on trust is not the moot point (at least, not in this post…)
It’s worth remembering that supermarkets are desperately trying to get into the convenience store market because the profit margins are higher (people topping up their shopping with a loaf of bread or milk will pay a proportionately higher price if they need the milk there and then) and so they’re on the lookout for suitable properties.
Pubs are brilliant as convenience stores; they have cellars, ready to become storage rooms, large footprints, often on street corners in residential areas, and because they’ve been used as retail shops, they’re a little easier to get planning permission for, which is why the ACV is so crucial.
New rules that came into force in April 2015 mean that once a pub has an ACV on it, converting it to a shop needs a formal planning application, which gives the community chance to object.
It takes up to 8 weeks to register an ACV (and many councils take the full 8 weeks) and by the time you get it – if you do – you’re still playing catch-up. We’ve seen all sorts of skullduggery because of these new planning rules and the developers are getting canny.
That brings into play the fact that councils have enormous latitude about how they interpret the regulations. What one council consider an ACV can be totally different from the next council. For example, the legal regulations say that the asset in question has to have been of community benefit and usage in the ‘recent past’, which some councils interpret to mean a decade, whilst others have three years in mind.
The only absolutely sure-fire, nailed on way to ensure a pub will get an ACV is to register it whilst it is still open. It’s still providing community benefit. It still can be in the future. As it has an ACV, it can’t be transformed overnight to block future plans. The cards get dealt evenly in the event of a change, whereas if you wait, you’ll always be playing a weaker hand.
Of course, the current owners won’t be happy but if those owners are Enterprise or Punch, then that’s kind of the point.
Postscript – Otley Pub Club have done just this, nominating every one of the 19 pubs still open in their community