A fightback against the closure of pubs is well underway in the district, with pints being held as tightly as any placard.
Thanks to a push by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), four more local pubs have been listed as assets of community value (ACV) with South Kesteven District Council, restricting the ability for developers to change their use.
Following in the footsteps of The Thorold Arms at Marston and The Bull Inn at Rippingale, are the Springfield Arms and The Lord Harrowby in Grantham, the White Swan in Barrowby, and the Five Bells in Claypole.
Secretary of the Grantham branch of CAMRA, Ian Hides, said: “With pubs closing at the rate of 29 every week, this listing is an important step in recognising the value to a local community of the local pub. The good news is that active campaigning, by CAMRA and others, has saved many pubs from being lost forever.”
In April last year, the Government extended protection for pubs by reviewing the existing permitted development rights within national planning policy, which allowed the change of use of a pub to a restaurant, bank or building society, or a shop, or its demolition, without the need to acquire planning permission.
The policy change means that these permitted development rights are removed if the pub is listed as an ACV, ensuring that planning permission would have to be granted for change of use or demolition.
Delighted with their recently acquired ACV status are licensees of The Lord Harrowby on Dudley Road, John and Lynda Senior. “It’s a proper back street pub that serves the surrounding community, and has been since 1870,” said Mr Senior. “Anyone who cares about their pub like we do should get it listed as an asset of community value. It’s about having that security.”
He added: “Look what happened with the Isaac Newton and Cherry Tree pubs in Grantham. For the people who used to go there, it’s left a gap in their social lives. Think about all the darts and pool teams that have been lost.”
John Fairhurst, who has been licensee at the White Swan in Barrowby for the last 23 years, agrees. He said: “There are pubs up and down the country that are closing down, and some of these are the only pub left in a village. They need to be protected for these communities.”
Fortunately, neither The Lord Harrowby or The White Swan are currently at risk of sale, but for those pubs which are, an ACV status also enables communities to put together a bid to buy the premises themselves, within a period of six months. This is the plan for the residents of Marston, and they are being supported in this by The Plunkett Foundation, which helps rural groups set up community co-operatives, including pubs.
Meanwhile, CAMRA’s latest national figures reveal that the number of pubs registered as ACVs nationally has doubled in the past six months, from 600 to 1,200, including 109 in the East Midlands.
Tim Page, CAMRA chief executive, said: “This figure is a testament to the effectiveness of putting power back into the hands of local communities and giving them a chance to have a say in shaping their town centres. We hope to more than double that figure by this time next year.”
Indeed, Grantham’s CAMRA branch is not letting up, with the announcement of the additions to the ACV register at their branch meeting on Wednesday night, soon followed by proposals for other pubs in the district that they will approach to help secure their status.
Chair of Grantham CAMRA Neville Lomas said: “Finding out what can be listed as an ACV is a learning curve, but it’s an opportunity that we have got to take.”
Moreover, as was clear from the meeting, there are those in the industry who are bucking the trend and opening new pubs.
Following his success with Just Beer in Newark and Beer Headz in Retford, Phil Ayling is set to open a Grantham branch of Beer Headz in the former premises of Sergio Hair Studio on Watergate. The provisional opening date is February 24, and he says that they are looking to take on staff. His partners in the business include chair of the Newark and District branch of CAMRA Andrew Birkenhead.
“We are in the middle of a beer explosion and if you don’t do it now you never will. My plan is to own six or seven Beer Headz in the next year or two,” he said.