The case of the Henry Jenkins – and Harrogate Borough Council’s decision not to protect it as an Asset of Community Value – was the subject of a major investigation in Saturday’s Yorkshire Post.
Under the front page splash headline “Communities being stripped of assets…” the paper reports that up to three quarters of bids to protect community assets under the Government’s Big Society have been rejected outright.
On an inside page a league table is published of local authorities in the region – and Harrogate comes out close to bottom, approving only 24 per cent of ACV nominations. As well as the Henry Jenkins, the Crown at Grewelthorpe was also recently refused protection. By comparison, Richmondshire and Barnsley have approved 100% of ACV nominatins, with other councils not far behind: Hambleton (94%), Scarborough (83%), York (82%), Rotherham (82%) and Leeds (81%).
Under the heading “Our pub is the beating heart of our village,” the decision to refuse the Henry Jenkins an ACV listing is reported in detail – alongside a picture of villagers protesting outside the pub.
Richard Sadler, of the Save the Henry Jenkins group is quoted as saying: “It can’t be right that a 250-year-old pub that has been so important to this village of Kirkby Malzeard is not listed when the legislation has been set up for exactly this purpose.”
The example is also given of Otley – where all but one of the town’s 20 pubs has been listed as an ACV by Leeds City Council. However one pub has a Harrogate post code and so comes under Harrogate’s jurisdiction – and this pub has been refused ACV protection.
The “postcode lottery” over the fate of much-valued local pubs is condemned by Leeds MP Greg Mulholland, chair of the Parliamentary Save the Pub group.
He said many pubs were still being lost despite the powers given to councils by the Government to protect them.
“In some cases they are clearly not following the national guidance and are turning down bids quite wrongly denying local people any say in the future of these local assets,” he said.
Paul Ainsworth, chair of Camra’s pubs campaign group, added that the administrative burden on councils meant it was easier to refuse an application than deal with the paperwork.
“This has led some councils to ‘gold-plate’ requirements so that it is virtually impossible for some communities to protect their local – simply because of where they live,” he said.
The system for nominating pubs and other facilities as Assets of Community Value was introduced under the Localism Act by David Cameron to allow local communities greater authority in protecting community assets.
Once a pub is listed as an ACV, this gives it greater protection against it being demolished or turned into shops or offices. It also allows time for a community buyout, an increasingly popular option in rural villages and one now being considered for the Henry Jenkins.
Last month Harrogate Borough Council’s Planning Committee – which does not deal with ACV nominations – refused plans for the demolition of the Henry Jenkins after receiving 90 objections and a 150-signature petition.
The application was rejected on the grounds that “the proposal would result in the loss of a community facility (public house) thereby reducing the variety of locally based community facilities to the detriment of meeting present and future social needs and aspirations of this rural community.”
However David Fielder is now trying to exploit a loophole in planning laws which could allow him to bypass this decision by rebranding the Henry Jenkins as “offices.”
The Save the Henry Jenkins group is planning to submit a new nominaton for the pub to be listed as an ACV.