List your local

by Steve Renshaw

Dunholme village green is a hidden gem. I’ve driven close by on numerous occasions but, until recently, never noticed it. The small triangle of grass has an impressive war memorial at its centre. A beck runs along one edge, with a footbridge leading to the ancient church. And just off one corner is the village pub.

It’s a scene you might see in a Visit Lincolnshire brochure. Except for one thing. The pub, The Lord Nelson, is boarded up and unloved. Last year, Punch Taverns sold it to Lincolnshire Co-op, who plan to demolish the building and replace it with a convenience store.

This is CAMRA’s worst nightmare. A cash-strapped pub company puts a prime-site pub up for sale, a property developer or supermarket chain snaps it up, and another community asset is lost forever.

The new owners will probably say that the pub wasn’t viable and the locals didn’t use it. But there are lots of examples of struggling pubs that have gone from strength to strength once they have been released from the constraints of a big pub company and allowed to operate as a free house.

The Bridge Inn in Ruabon near Wrexham had been closed for six months when, in 2009, it was taken on as a family business. It has been turned round to such an extent that, in 2012, it won CAMRA’s national pub of the year award. It now plays a pivotal role at the heart of a small community.

But what can you do to keep your beloved local out of the hands of speculators or supermarket chains? Well, until recently, the answer would have been, “Not much.” However, through the Localism Act, the Government has introduced new powers for communities in England to nominate valued facilities such as pubs as assets of community value.

Listing stops the sale of pubs behind the backs of communities. If the owner of a listed pub wishes to sell it, they must let the local authority know. At this point, a six-week interim moratorium period kicks in, during which the local community group decides whether it would like to consider bidding to take the pub on. If so, they can trigger a full moratorium period of six months – time to raise finance, develop a business plan and to make a bid to buy the asset on the open market.

In order to list your local as an asset of community value, you must explain to your local authority why it should be listed and demonstrate that at least 21 people from the community support the case. Some authorities already have a nomination form on their websites. If not, CAMRA has a template form that can be used.

But it’s important to stress that, by signing the nomination form, you will be under absolutely no obligation to bid to buy that pub in the future.

CAMRA is hoping that at least 300 pubs across the UK will be listed by the end of the year. At the Great British Beer Festival, Brandon Lewis MP, the Community Pubs Minister, announced that 100 pubs have already been given greater protection from being sold off for redevelopment. So, if you love your local, get it listed.

And what about the beer? As The Lord Nelson was closed, I had to go to Welton to find the next nearest pub. It was ironic that I passed another Co-op convenience store on my way to the Black Bull. Since global brewer, Molton Coors, took over Cornwall’s Sharp’s brewery, Doom Bar (4% ABV) had become the UK’s best-selling real ale. It’s an easy-drinking, amber bitter with a dry finish.

Find out more about protecting pubs at www.camra.org.uk/listyourlocal