Campaigners are calling for communities to help save Norfolk’s pubs
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Campaigners are calling on their communities to help in the fight to save treasured pubs, landmarks and libraries as many have encountered difficulties safeguarding them.
Under the 2011 Localism Act, any building can be listed as an asset of community value (ACV), giving the local community six months in which to seek to buy it.
And while South Norfolk Council has pledged to help list every pub within its district – around 100 – other councils and community groups are less pro-active.
Any local group – from a parish council to a community group – can appeal for a building to be protected.
Since the Act came into force 167 applications have been made in Norfolk and East Suffolk, with 27 rejected and 17 pending.
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The Norwich and Norfolk Camra (Campaign for Real Ale) branch and South Norfolk Council have rolled out a new initiative to list pubs in the area on the scheme before it becomes a reactive measure.
One pub already listed is in the balance as just weeks remain for the community in Norwich to rally and save the former Ketts Tavern from being turned into housing.
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The pub on Ketts Hill, latterly known as Virtuoso, had served the area for more than 200 years before the last owners, Kevin Hopkins and Amyi Hodgson, decided to sell up.
It has been listed at a price in the region of £350,000, and after it was successfully nominated as an asset of community value by Norwich and Norwich Camra, the group is urging the community to express an interest.
A six-week window to express an interest began on September 7, which would kick-start a six-month moratorium. If no intention to bid is received by October 19, no further bids can be accepted from community interest groups within the 'protected period' of 18 months after this date.
'As a Camra branch we are not able to bid, but if anyone would like to form a community we are happy to help,' said pub protection officer Neil Bowers.
'Effectively they have four weeks now to put their name in the hat. It has been a very popular pub, and in the context of so many other pubs going, we didn't want to lose another in Norwich. It is absolutely in the hands of the community now.'
Announcing the sale of the pub, owner Kevin Hopkins said the current climate had made the business unviable.
'Unfortunately it does get to the point we are working so hard for a small income,' he said.
'That is the difficulty all pubs are in. The business rates are too high, supermarket prices are making people drink at home, and we work too hard for too little reward.'
But Mr Bowers said the community could turn around the fortunes of the historic pub.
'In the community we have more of a say in how the pub is run, and you have more people with more ideas,' he said. 'It is possible to make it viable by putting heads together.'
A success story – but local people need to lend their support
In the shadow of the huge success story of the Kings Arms in Shouldham, West Norfolk Camra claim their own efforts to protect local pubs have been hampered.
Jeff Hoyle, pub protection officer for West Norfolk Camra, said two applications had been rejected when the branch attempted to step in at the last moment – the pub at West Winch and Lattice House in King's Lynn.
'West Winch was turned down because it was judged we had not proved it was a community asset,' said Mr Hoyle. 'We had heard the pub was under threat because there was a big housing development coming up there, but subsequently it seemed to do OK.
'Lattice House was owned by Wetherspoon's and earlier this year it was sold off. There was a lot of concern about its future at that time, and they refused to accept the application because they said Camra was not allowed to make it.
'I have talked to lots of branches around the country and it seems we are the only branch to ever not be permitted to put an application in.
'It is very difficult to save if people in the village or the local area do not want to save it. It's important that if you are in a village that maybe only has one pub, to talk to your parish councillors and try to get it listed that way.'
A spokesman for West Norfolk Council said: 'Each nomination is determined on its own merits based on the information provided within the application. We are happy to provide advice to applicants who are considering submitting an application and have done so with Camra.
'Decisions to list a property as an asset of community value can be appealed, so it is important that evidence is provided to demonstrate that the criteria have been met.'
'The Kings Arms in Shouldham was one of the first properties to be listed as a community asset and is a real success story thanks to the involvement of the local community and indeed the support they received from the EDP.'
Battle to save the Berney Arms
Campaigners trying to rescue the fortunes of one of the most remote pubs in the country, the Berney Arms, are continuing with their mission despite a failed attempt to list it as an ACV.
On August 3, the Norwich and Norfolk Camra branch bid was unsuccessful because the pub is so remote.
The pub had become unprofitable and other options for its use, including a home, have been explored.
Jess Shanahan, one of the campaigners hoping to save the pub, said: 'The bid to register the pub was declined on the grounds that there is no community within the local area because it is so remote.
'We, and many other people, completely disagree with that assessment because you can have a community anywhere, and we feel the community of the Berney Arms is online.
'The pub has now been taken back from the receivers by the original owner and is now no longer for sale. We, as a group trying to save the Berney Arms, have now registered as a community group so we are a legal business entity. We are hoping there is some way to enter into a discussion with the man who owns it with a view to continue with our plan to buy the pub for community use.'
'Need to be more proactive'
Pub enthusiasts in Suffolk have said they need to do more to help protect the buildings in their area after a single application from them in five years.
Tony Dawes, pub preservation officer for North East Suffolk Camra branch, said: 'Our approach is essentially if we think a pub is likely to be threatened – if it is up for sale or if there is major work being done – that might be a cause for concern.
'Also, if we have been alerted by someone who lives locally we will try to get it listed. We are not thinking about trying to do every single pub, as that would be far too time consuming.
'We have only applied for one so far; The Fleece [in Bungay] which was being sold off by Adnams. It should have opened last year but I think everything was taking so long we were getting quite concerned about its future.
'Waveney wanted the name and address of the owner and a plan of the building itself before they would process our nomination. The fact it had just been bought from Adnams meant there was nothing in the land registry to say who the new owner was. Certainly I think our branch needs to be more proactive to try to identify pubs that should be listed and try to get in the application while the current licensee is still there.
'I know some areas have been rejecting Camra applications by saying they are not local people, even though the people involved in the branch do live locally.'
• Anyone interested in forming a group to lodge an expression of interest can contact Mr Bowers on email@example.com, or Norwich City Council direct at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01603212217