Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Merton Council wrong to say no viable pub interest in Morden Tavern

Campaign for Morden Tavern

To informed observers of the pub sector there is no doubt that the Morden Tavern is a viable pub business which only came onto the market due to various private equity driven business entities looking to maximise their individual returns by agreeing lucrative back room deals which benefited themselves to everyone else's, specifically the local community's, direct detriment.

Andrew Judge has this introduction on his blog's biography page:

"If you are a resident with a problem please get in touch with me, by working with local residents and taking action to improve our community we can make this a great place to live. ...
"By background I’m a barrister, an environmental lawyer and activist. I have been involved in many campaigns and projects, represented and advised many people."

There is a disjuncture between Andrew's aspiration to support local residents against his valuing a development proposal on the grounds that there is no viable business case against it happening. This does not square particularly well with what looks to be his good record of community engagement. Perhaps he is missing a point?

I'd argue that what St Helier Pub Group has achieved already is, on its own, compelling evidence that there is likely to be a strong, viable business case for retaining the pub as a profitable and sustainable Community Asset if it were operated competently with that outcome in mind. This is a community group, not a well funded, private equity focused developer honed to achieving its own profitable ends and it needs time to grow and develop strength. To prove the business case the group must be given breathing space needed to research and assemble the many options and routes to finance that are available even in this economic climate.

The pub was built as a community resource and it can undoubtedly be reborn as such if it is invested in wisely and made relevant to today's audience.

Andrew could drop his official skepticism, and his laudable defence of the planning department's massive gaffe in letting this local corker slip through to getting egg on the council's face, and wholeheartedly get behind the community to work toward re-establishing this pub as a vibrant hub of contemporary relevance to its community it was designed and built to be.

The Morden Tavern is a rare opportunity to establish what could become a national beacon for what should happen to community assets that have not been looked after by responsible owners for far too long. It should be seen as a remarkable opportunity for bringing local community, elected representatives and administration, together with statutory bodies and a much wider range of associated and interested parties, together to make a pub business fit for 21st century society.

1 comment:

  1. Your opening paragraph is questionable.

    On 1st July 2010, I was advised by Council officers that demand for the facilities that this public house provided had deteriorated over recent years. That the former leaseholders marketed the leasehold interest for a considerable period with no interest from companies in the brewery/public house sector and disposed of their interest to Reef Estates Ltd.

    This accorded with my own personal observations and understanding that few local people drank there and it offered an unattractive social and drinking environment.

    Obviously many pubs have become non-viable and have closed in the area: quite simply drinking and social habits have changed.

    Shortly after I met with campaigners and local councillors. I asked to see evidence that this was a going concern as a pub from any potential credible lessee. No evidence was available then and so far as I am aware none has been produced in the nearly two years since by, or through, the campaigners.