Council could step in to purchase pub to save it for community
A closed pub in Stapleford could be compulsory purchased by a district council so that a local community group can take it on.
At a meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Business and Customer Services portfolio holder today (Friday 7 July), Cllr Nick Wright agreed for officers to look in to the next steps for a compulsory purchase order of The Tree public house – a pub that the owner bought and quickly closed at the end of 2013.
A financial report looking at the business case for the pub being successfully reopened and run by the community was discussed in private session today due to the commercially sensitive information it included – but Cllr Wright described it as a strong case.
A community group does not have compulsory purchase powers so Cllr Wright has suggested the Council steps in and provide support if further negotiations fail to convince the owner to sell to the “large and well-organised” community group.
Cllr Wright said today that protecting community hubs in villages is important and the Council will commit officer time to help The Tree Community Limited. However, he also said today that the community group will need to fund the full cost of the legal process for a Compulsory Purchase Order – something they have set money aside for – if it is needed.
The owner of The Tree pub has already applied for planning permission to develop the site, which included housing, but he withdrew the plans in July 2015. Since then he has recently submitted a new planning application to the Council for a different scheme that would see homes and a smaller pub built. The community group have objected to the plans.
The recommendations agreed today will mean that Council officers and Cllr Wright will reopen negotiations with the pub owner as a first step. This aims to avoid the need for a legal process to compulsory purchase the pub. Cllr Wright has also confirmed that the legal process should not begin until the current planning application has been determined.
If the Council reached the position that a compulsory purchase is a viable option, details will need to be presented to a meeting of Cabinet and then Full Council for a final decision.
South Cambridgeshire District Council listed the pub as an Asset of Community Value in December 2013 following a nomination by Stapleford Parish Council. The Asset of Community Value scheme is a national initiative administered by local district councils to help give community groups time to form realistic plans to bid for buildings and land in their communities before they can be sold on the open market.
Cllr Nick Wright, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Business and Customer Services, said: “Pubs are the heart of our communities and there is a very strong will from The Tree Community Limited to get the pub reopened for villagers. The Council would never go into the process of compulsory purchase lightly but I firmly believe the situation here is unique. The pub was purchased and closed quickly, there will not be any eviction as no one is living in it and we have a large and well-organised community group who have significant funding behind them.
“At a recent very well attended meeting in the village there was a clear and strong desire to retain the pub for the community. It is important that the current planning application is determined before we move forward and our planning team will do that by considering the facts in front of them.
“We want to make sure we have thriving communities with good facilities and I think this is the right step to support this village. It is incredibly rare that we would do this and we are aiming to not need to go down that route as we want to make progress with the owner so that the pub can be reinvigorated. I believe there is a good business case for The Tree continuing to be successful if it is reopened.”