Sheffield’s first test of whether declaring pubs ‘community assets’ can prevent them from becoming shops looks set to fall in campaigners’ favour.
Council officers have recommended that a planning application to change the use of The Plough, at Sandygate, to a Sainsbury’s convenience store should be refused.
The pub – opposite Hallam FC, the world’s oldest football ground – was declared an asset of community value by the council in July 2015, following a push by campaigners.
Eight pubs in Sheffield are registered as ACVs, including the Three Tuns in the city centre and the White Lion at Heeley, as well as The Plough.
An application to have the Cherry Tree pub, on Carter Knowle Avenue, listed as an ACV is awaiting a decision, while a fresh bid has just been lodged to have the University Arms on Western Bank registered.
Assets cannot be converted or demolished without planning permission, and supporters are given six months to put together a bid to buy properties, facilities or land, if they are put on the market.
But the rules have not so far been tested with an application in Sheffield. In a report ahead of a meeting of the council’s planning committee on January 10, officers said ‘insufficient evidence’ had been provided to demonstrate that The Plough was ‘unviable’ and that the building was incapable of being used as a pub ‘for the foreseeable future’.
There were nearly 200 objections to the plan for a Sainsbury’s.
Peter Duff, chair of the Save the Plough campaign group, said: “We’re really pleased the local authority, having accepted the ACV nomination, now appears to be upholding that. It’s good news for other pubs in the city as well that face a similar threat.”
And Dave Pickersgill, pub heritage officer for Sheffield branch of the Campaign for Real Ale, said: “We would like to give our congratulations to all who have been involved in the long fight against the application. The ACV status of the pub and the sheer number of objections to the proposal give a clear indication to the strength of feeling by local residents.
“We hope the owners will quickly make the pub available, at a sensible price, to a local pub or brewing company. Ideally, it will soon re-open as a community pub, one with close links to the second-oldest football team in the world.”
Mr Duff said registering pubs as assets was ‘very much the first step’ in protecting venues, but added: “It’s not a magic bullet, and not a solution in itself.”
He said campaigners were considering the option of using The Plough as a heritage centre celebrating Sheffield’s sporting history, potentially with the backing of a local brewery, should the building’s owner Enterprise Inns decide to sell.
Campaigners would also ‘put pressure’ on the council to act should the pub be left empty and fall into disrepair.
Save the Plough’s efforts have been backed by the city’s Liberal Democrats and Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg, who said: “This success is a credit to the local community who have rallied together and worked tirelessly to save their beloved local. I hope now the owners will work with the campaign to find a way to make this community asset a success once again.”