An asset of community value

tom_pear_tree_gainsborough17:41 Wednesday 9th September 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHRIS MANN: A former pub in South Cambs has been saved from development as a house, after a planning inspector backed the Council’s decision to refuse it planning permission. The Pear Tree in Hildersham had been listed as an Asset of Community Value by villagers, but it doesn’t look like they’ll be getting their local back just yet. To find out more I’m joined by councillor Nick Wright from South Cambs, He’s the District Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development. Hello Nick.
NICK WRIGHT: Good evening Chris.
CHRIS MANN: And someone who’s been working to try and save pubs. So when did the pub close?
NICK WRIGHT: It closed in 2013, but we’re delighted with this decision, because it effectively blocks a loophole where we were seeing pubs change into shops overnight, which they’re legally entitled to do. And then, after a year or two, the shop having failed, go to a residence.
CHRIS MANN: So this was overnight turned into a furniture shop. And obviously locals were a bit frustrated, because they wanted their pub back. But the people who owned it said, well hang on a second. You didn’t support us enough when we were a pub.
NICK WRIGHT: We give a lot of support as a council to pubs. The heart of our communities, the good pubs thrive, and it’s really down to the owners and the tenants at the pub to make them successful. We support them in every way that we can.
CHRIS MANN: OK. The people owned it, but you felt that in a sense you owned it too as the community. Is that the sense of it?
NICK WRIGHT: I think most villages feel like that about their pubs, so they do feel this community ownership. And now there’s an opportunity for villagers where pubs are closing to keep them going as a community-run pub.
CHRIS MANN: So is this a stalemate or a victory? Because you don’t get your pub back, but they don’t get to put it into a development.
NICK WRIGHT: Well it’s back to the owners now of the pub, the Pear Tree anyway. They have the choice. Either they can make the offer to the community again to come forward with an offer to buy the pub, and then run it as a pub. Or they can go back to running it as a pub or shop.
CHRIS MANN: Can they not keep it as a house?
NICK WRIGHT: No. Well it has its use as a house, but not the pub area. The pub area is a business, and that will be a shop or a pub.
CHRIS MANN: OK. And can you force their hand in some way?
NICK WRIGHT: We can stop them now changing where the pub was into a house.
CHRIS MANN: So what does this mean for other villages? I know there are so many of them fighting to keep the last pub in the village going.
NICK WRIGHT: It’s a real fillip, and hopefully it’s going to stop people looking at pubs as an opportunity to, within a couple of years, buy a pub, old pub, cheap, and turn it into a house, if there’s a community wish to keep the pub going, or a community desire to buy the pub and run it.
CHRIS MANN: That’s all very well, but you can’t do much about the brewery that wants to sell off their pubs, can you?
NICK WRIGHT: Well they are, and generally I think that’s been good for pubs. There’s lots of community groups come forward to run or just private owners, and it has been successful.
CHRIS MANN: Some people say it’s just the advance of so-called progress. It’s a fact of life. People don’t go out to pubs as often as they did. There’s not a need for as many as there were before, and you should just accept it.
NICK WRIGHT: That is undoubtedly true, to some extent. But where you get down to the last one, and they do have support, and it’s often down to the quality of the people running the pub whether they’re successful or not. A good landlord, bonhomie and a real welcome, can make a pub into a great business.
CHRIS MANN: So it’s not last orders at the Pear Tree in Hildersham. But when will we be pouring a pint again?
NICK WRIGHT: I would love to join you to drink one. And let’s hope it’s at the Pear Tree and that comes about.
CHRIS MANN: Nick, thanks so much for joining us. Councillor Nick Wright there, South Cambs. District Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development.