There is no history of Sam Smiths disposing of unused pubs, quite the opposite in fact, a history of investing in maintaining their properties to heritage standards even if some remain closed for long periods. (As we noted in our original letter to the brewery, the property is at least as significant as the trading, if not more so.)
Given this history it is very unlikely it should come to this, but we did some research a couple of months ago about protections for changes of use of a “community pub” like The Anchor. There are several pieces of planning legislation that prevent this (you may recall this famous case). In difficult times when traditional pub operations may be unprofitable quite a number of non-Sam-Smith pubs have been “rescued” by successful community pub campaigns.
Not only is there protection, there is in fact financial assistance to maintain pubs which may be considered a community asset. Pasted below is a recent message from CAMRA Campaigns Manager, Paul Edgeworth :-
The Community Ownership Fund was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Budget earlier [in 2021], and was launched by the UK Government’s Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on 15th July.
What is the Community Ownership Fund?
The Community Ownership Fund is a £150 million fund for communities to help them take ownership of assets and amenities at risk of closure.
Communities applying to the fund should have a strong vision for the long-term future of the asset, its purpose and potential in community life, and a plan for how the asset can thrive under community ownership.
Who is eligible?
It is open to voluntary and community organisations with match funding in all four nations of the United Kingdom.
Funding can be used to support the purchase and/or renovation costs of community assets and amenities. This can include pubs and social clubs, but this is not a fund dedicated solely to community pubs.
Proposals will need to prove the value of the asset to local people and that the asset can run sustainably for the long-term benefit of the community.
To be eligible for investment from the Fund, the terms of community ownership must be either the ownership of the freehold or a long-term leasehold of at least 25 years minimum (with no break clauses).
All applicants must demonstrate the potential of their projects to deliver against all of the following outcomes:
• protect a community asset or amenity that is at risk and preserve its community value
• develop a sustainable operating model to secure the long-term future of the community asset in community ownership
• safeguard the use of community assets and associated local amenities
All applicants must also show how their project will help deliver one or more of the following outcomes for their place:
• increase feelings of pride and improve perceptions of the local area as a place to live
• improve social trust, cohesion and sense of belonging
• increase local participation in community life, arts and culture and/or sport
• create additional local economic outcomes – including creating jobs, volunteering opportunities and improving employability and skills levels in the local community
• create additional social and wellbeing outcomes – including delivering positive impact in physical and/or mental health and reducing loneliness and social isolation
How does it work?
The fund will run for 4 years, with at least 8 rounds of bidding.
The first bidding round opened on 15th July 2021 for those looking to complete their projects within 6 months. The deadline for submitting application is 13th August 2021.
Round 2 will open in December 2021; and Round 3 in May 2022.
This prospectus sets out information on the:
• funding available
• how to apply
• assessment criteria
Assessment guidance criteria:
The Campaigns Team will be working with partner organisations in the community pubs sector to look at the details of this new fund in more depth in the coming days and weeks, as well as how we can work together to provide guidance and support for community groups looking to make use of the Community Ownership Fund. We will keep branches updated.
As we say, it shouldn’t come to this with Sam Smiths, but if you’re interested to know more, why not join CAMRA?