Bid to remove historic pub’s asset of community value status is rejected

A bid to remove an historic village pub’s status as an asset of community value (ACV) has been rejected by Melton Borough Council.

Saturday, 13th June 2020, 1:51 pm
Updated Saturday, 13th June 2020, 2:14 pm
The Black Horse at Grimston EMN-200613-134444001

The Black Horse, at Grimston, has been closed since January but it received an ACV listing from the council in April because it is considered an important amenity venue for residents.

It is curently the subject of a planning application - yet to be considered by borough councillors and which has evoked 150 objections from members of the public - which seeks to convert some of the main building to a two-bed flat, transform an outbuilding into a two-bed home and keep part of the pub on a much smaller footprint.

In a separate request, the owners formally challenged the pub’s ACV status, pointing out that it had not been supported sufficiently by the local community, that sports teams which played there were made up of people not from the village and that it would not be viable to reopen due to the economic damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The owners - David, Sally-Ann Wakefield and Haydn Wakefield - also said that negative comments had been made to them on social media which showed that there was no community support for the pub.

But the council’s director for governance and regulatory services, Adele Wylie, has now upheld the ACV listing after considering representations on both sides and relevant legal cases elsewhere in the country.

In her decision report, she wrote: “In my view, financial viability is not relevant to the question of whether an asset has furthered the social wellbeing or interests of the community.

“The fact that the pub continued to trade until January 2020 and be a place where the community could meet, socialise, eat and partake in social events/activities suggests that regardless of the number of pints sold it can be argued that it furthered the social wellbeing or interests of the local community.

“Whilst I note tensions within the community, this is not a relevant consideration for the purposes of my decision.”

The owners had suggested that the village hall, if licenced, could be an alternative community asset, but Ms Wylie said that there was no legal limitation on a village having more than building listed as an ACV,

A further appeal against the retention of the ACV can be made by the owners if they lodge it within 28 days.

Grimston, Saxekbye and Shoby Parish Council, which originally nominated The Black Horse to be listed as an ACV, has registered strong objection to the plans to redevelop the pub.

In its comments to the planning committee about the application, the parish council said the proposals had ‘caused outrage among parish residents and visitors alike’ and provoked an ‘extraordinary number of objections’.

It wrote to the borough planners to state: “The small public bar element would be a miserable substitute for an historic village inn and its design seems likely to render it economically unviable.

“The fear is that it too will be forced to close and that the pub will be lost to the community forever.”

Many objectors to the pub redevelopment scheme say its loss would effectively make the community unsustainable for future generations with so few other amenities available to them. The building has been used as a pub since 1828. In recent years it had built a reputation as a popular destination pub serving quality food and was named in the prestigious AA Pub Guide for 2020.

In their planning application, the owners say a restructure of the site to include housing would provide important income at a difficult time for the economy to sustain the pub in a smaller setting.