Peter Herbert as Lord of the Manor has written to the Reuben Brothers and appeal to them personally, as their charity supports communities such as ours.
We have now heard back from the Landlords (June 2015) and they have no intention in selling the Freehold to us as a community and maintain that they wish to let the premises on a Commercial Lease through their agents Fleurets.
1. The landlords infer that The Villagers Public House failed due to the lack of support from the local community. We know that this is untrue, as they had no interest in running a successful public house as both the quality of food and beer was of such a low standard, no one within a ten mile radius would visit the pub on a regular basis. This notion can also be disproved by the fact that over 80% of the residents of Blackheath supported the application for the pub to be listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) - the focal point of our village.
2. It has been suggested by the Landlords that the Cricket Club has now become the local hostelry and has in effect replaced The Villagers Public House. This is an inaccurate statement as the Cricket Club is only open for set hours per week and has strict rules regarding it's use as a Private Members Club.
3. The landlords state that the property is being marketed at a reasonable price but acknowledge that extensive works need to take place for any incoming Leaseholder. They will not entertain any financial arrangement that prejudices them which results in complete lack of interest and no offers from their agents. It is quite clear that any new owner would only be interested in the Freehold at a reasonable price, which we estimate to be in the region of £200,000.
We discussed other options including our attempt to have a meeting with either Criterian Asset Management or The Wellington Pub Group, which has not materialised. It is very difficult to establish what their long term objectives are and we can only conclude that once the ACV has been in place for 5 years, they will apply to convert the property into a private residence. We can of course renew the ACV if this has any merit, but do we want this eyesore to remain in place for another 5 years?
The Villagers last closed it's doors in 2010. After 12 months of watching the pub fall into a state of disrepair the people of Blackheath began to mobilise to save it. In 2012 105 signatures were collected from local residents in support of the nomination of the pub as an Asset of Community Value (ACV). The move was successful and the pub is now protected from a change of use for a period of 5 years.
Barriers have been placed around the pub and Waverley Borough Council have contacted us to advise the Blackheath Village Society that the pub has been disposed of to a third party and The Villagers Public House is no longer included in Wavleley's list of Assets of Community Value as of 21 October 2016.
It is understood that the building has been bought by a residential developer and we will provide an update once the details of the Company/individual is made available to us. At this stage we are unaware of the intentions of the new owner, but in order to protect our position and prevent them carrying out work under the “Permitted Development Order”, we have re-nominated the property on 24 October 2016 with a decision made within 8 weeks. We have applied to re-list the property for a further 5 year period, as we have strong backing from the local community, which is a factor that will be taken into account when deciding whether there is a realistic prospect of the building being used for future community use.
We can also confirm the following:
1. Our planning application is presently running with Waverley Borough Council and a decision will be made by the Planning Committee on or around 9 December 2016.
2. We will be monitoring any other pre-planning and planning applications with Waverley Borough Council. Once we know the developers intentions we will arrange a public meeting to discuss the implications and our response to any proposals.
3. Details about the amount paid will be accessed from The Land Registry, once this information becomes available.
4. Pledge Forms and documents will still be circulated to Shamley Green and Wonersh through the November issue of the Parish Magazine.
5. The Committee will still continue negotiations with the Plunkett Foundation and the Co-Op, regarding grant and loan funding.
FOR THE COMMUNITY, BY THE COMMUNITY
The Villagers Pub
Wonersh Parish Council have been involved with, and supportive of this project from the start helping establish the Asset of Community Value status, liaising with Waverley Borough Council and attending meetings to discuss Compulsory Purchase Order possibilities, and sending a representative to project team meetings. We are confident that they will continue to provide further support as the project progresses.
In September 2014 51 residents attended a village meeting to discuss the future of the pub. A pub committee was subsequently formed and has since begun the process of investigating ways in which the village pub, The Villagers, might be acquired and run for the benefit of the village, including potential additional utilities such as a village shop.
The committee has considered and researched various options including making a compulsory purchase of The Villagers, which is currently owned by The Wellington Pub Group, in order to redevelop/refurbish it, to provide a different style of pub, relevant to community needs and interests. The views and wishes aired by residents at the September meeting have been at the heart of all discussions around what might happen next.
It is planned that the new pub will be the hub of the community; it will potentially offer a community
‘shop’ counter, selling amongst other items, locally produced butchery products, seasonal fruits and vegetables. It will offer teas/coffees, lunches and evening meals as well as alcoholic beverages. It may also have a very small number of letting bedrooms; the village is set within a site of special scientific interest, amid the Surrey Hills and is popular with walkers and naturalists.
“Rural communities, and this country’s rural way of life, face unprecedented challenges. The country pub, which has been the heart of village life for centuries, is disappearing in many areas. Providing services from a pub, such as a post office or shop, keeps an essential service in the village” - HRH The Prince of Wales.
The BVS considered various options including making a compulsory purchase of The Villagers Pub, Blackheath Village, currently in private ownership, in order to redevelop/refurbish it, to provide a different style of pub, relevant to community needs and interests.
If the owners of the pub decide to sell then the community interest group(CIG) will have the right to bid for it under the protocols set out in the Localism Act . If the owners of the pub are refusing to sell then the CIG can request that the local authority uses it’s CPO powers to acquire the ACV if it remains unused and could be, of benefit to the community.
The CIG are aware that if Waverley is using its CPO powers at the request of the CIG, it may expect the CIG to underwrite both the costs of acquisition and costs of the legal process of making the order(including in-house costs and those of external advisers which may include( inter alia) lawyers & surveyors.
A meeting with Waverley proved to unsuccessful and they would not support a CPO.
The Project Management Support - The Plunkett Foundation, identified by Locality as a provider with specialist knowledge of co-operative forms of pub ownership and management have been engaged. They will be used at a very early stage of the project to help the BVS set out a critical path timeline and thus manage the suppliers of professional services to best effect.
Architectural Services – Allan MacMillan of C7 Architects, for their expertise in sympathetic design solutions for new/restored Blackheath buildings to reflect the work of 19th century architect, Charles Harrison Townsend.
Planning Services – Jayne Wunderlich of Paradigm Planning Ltd. Chosen for personal knowledge and specifically for her experience of working with Waverley Borough Council.
Legal Services - Anthony Collins Solicitors, recommended by Locality and chosen for their relevant fields of expertise/specialism.