Campaigners left high and dry in pub battle

Villagers wanting to save their pub say they are being stonewalled by the company that owns it.

Wednesday, 17th September 2014, 8:00 am
Campaigners in Walcote are being left high and dry in their battle to bring The Black Horse pub back to the village. Pat Piggott, vice-chairman of the Black Horse Community Group, is pictured second from the right

The Black Horse is now an empty village pub at Walcote on the A4304, not far from junction 20 of the M1.

Villagers want to look into buying the pub themselves – but can’t get a response from Commercial First, the commercial property company that now owns the building.

“We’re in limbo at the moment,” said Pat Piggott, vice-chairman of The Black Horse Community Group.

“We believe that the pub is viable, but until we know what the owners wish to do with this building, we can’t do anything.”

The local parish council – Misterton with Walcote Parish Council – has had the pub building declared as a “community asset” under legislation provided by the Localism Act.

Mr Piggott explained: “That gives us the right to put in a bid if they offer the pub for sale, and then we have six months to come up with the money to buy it.”

But the national Plunkett Foundation, which provides help and advice to community pubs and shops, admits that it usually takes longer to save and re-open a pub than the six months of grace that the Localism Act allows.

The Plunkett Foundation’s Liz Pearce said “after that moratorium period, the owner can sell to anyone”.

The pub had been up for rent with Ward Surveyors Ltd.

But a spokesman for Ward’s said it had been withdrawn from the market due to a “legal technicality”.

The Mail has rung Commercial First , based in Skipton, North Yorkshire, half a dozen times over the past week.

Much like the residents, so far no-one at the company has been able to tell us about their land, or why they have so far failed to contact The Black Horse Community Group – a potential customer.

A spokesman at Commerical First did say he would contact Mr Piggott if there were any developments.

Meanwhile, the village of Walcote, which used to have two pubs, remains pub-less.

“The purpose of the group forming was basically we want a pub in the village,” added Mr Piggott. “We’re prepared to take it on ourselves – but we need to know where we stand.”

The community-owned pub movement is just starting to take off across the UK.

The Plunkett Foundation says there are 29 community pubs so far in Britain with the oldest being 25-years-old.

And despite the national trend for pub closures, so far none of the community-owned pubs in the UK has had to shut down.