Monday, November 24, 2014

The gestative community pubs movement doesn't have a chance

FROM Financial Times, Kate Allen, 24/11/2014

Yoga, dance and microbrewery beer at UK’s first community pub

While there is a gestative community pub ownership movement and there are clear signs that many communities would love to 'save their pubs' from conversion to alternative use 'Other communities' will not have the same chances that the Ivy House locals did. They were at the right place at the right time, as the Localism act came into play, with an unusually competent group of locals forming a committee able to research and access grants which simply will not be available for any such pub purchases again. It was the Heritage Listing more than ACV status which gave the Ivy House a spanner in the works for the developer's plans for conversion, and by offering almost £200K more than the developer paid Enterprise for the building, on a close to back to back turnaround deal, it surely was a no brainer for the pub to be sold into community ownership. No other community will have the luxury of being able to outbid a developer, it just isn't going to happen. 

So, while the Ivy House is a success story it's in no way indicative of what's going to happen across the country. The several hundred communities all over the UK whose pubs are under threat of change of use have been getting together and assembling ACV applications trying to raise the money to outwit well funded developers who specialise in turning pubs into other use. They are up against the pubco's whose asset stripping has led to the abundance of 'failed' pubs coming to market. These companies are reluctant sellers when it comes to dealing with communities, they prefer to work with asset conversion companies - as with a recent deal Marston's did with New River Retail where over 200 pubs were handed over for conversion where, ironically as the CoopsUK is the champion par excellence of Saving Community Pubs, the Coo-op Retail arm has taken up a quarter of the sites with plans for development of Community shops. - and the fact is that ACV status on its own confers no protection from conversion by developers  as pubs are still vulnerable to being changed to supermarket use without consent as these are in the same planning class. The facts are stark:

  • There are about 46000 pubs in the UK.
  • Roughly 540 are registered as ACV.
  • At last count, 34 pubs in London are ACV. Ivy House was the first.
  • With the exception of the Ivy House, NONE of the London ACV pubs have been successfully bought out by a community interest group under the provisions of the Localism Act and ACV Regs (Community Right to Bid).
  • Over half the London ACV pubs are currently closed.
  • CAMRA figures suggest around 10 pubs (from 540 registered) have been saved via the Right to Bid process. A further 10-15 are in community ownership, but were bought before the Localism Act came into force or outside of the Right to Bid provisions.
  • We currently lose 31 pubs each week. In London we have lost half our pubs over the last 30 years and they are threatened like never before. 37 perfectly viable pubs have been converted to Tesco Express stores in the last 4 years alone.
Communities don't have a chance. The gestative Community Pub movement needs serious investment, professional input and a national vision. 

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