Support for Community Assets is National & Local Government Policy.
From local pubs and shops to village halls and community centres, the past decade has seen many communities lose local amenities and buildings that are of great importance to them. As a result, they find themselves bereft of the assets that can help to contribute to the development of vibrant and active communities. However, on a more positive note, the
past decade has also seen a significant rise in communities becoming more active and joining together to save and take over assets which are significant for them.
Part 5 Chapter 3 of the Localism Act, and the Assets of Community Value (England) Regulations, which together deliver the Community Right to Bid, aim to encourage more of this type of community-focused, locally-led action by providing an important tool to help communities looking to take over and run local assets. The ACV scheme gives communities the opportunity to identify assets of community value and have them listed and, when they are put up for sale, more time to raise finance and prepare to bid for them.
If the community does nothing to save the Crown & Cushion now, it will be lost to the community forever.
The Crown and Cushion closed at the start of pandemic restrictions on 20th March 2020 having traded under the current freeholders for 20 months. The current freeholders have stated that in their opinion the Crown & Cushion Public House cannot be run profitably and that they are therefore not prepared to subsidise its future operation.
Any public house today will find it difficult to be profitable by just offering drinks (wet trade). To be profitable it needs to offer additional services such as food, entertainment and events that appeal to locals, passing trade and people further afield.
A pub is not just the building. Whether a pub can be run profitably depends, like any business, on the vision, talent and hard work of those running the business. The C&C was profitable under the previous freeholder and was sold as a viable business.
It is government policy to enable and encourage communities to take over “Community Assets” that are in danger of being lost.
Being a community owned free house with no supply ties to parent company is a great advantage in terms of cost of supplies, realistic rents and volunteer help.
The Local Planning authority categorises all buildings into specific “Use Classes”. A private house (officially termed a Dwellinghouse) is categorised in “use class” C3. A house in multiple occupation would be “use class” C4 a hotel use class C1.
Any change from one use class to another requires planning permission. A Public House is categorised in “Use Class” Sui Generis (in a class on its own) as a PUBLIC HOUSE, thus can only be used as a Public House. Any change to sole residential use (Use Class C3) would require planning permission. (UK Statutory Instruments 2020 No. 757 Regulation 10)
The primary purpose of the Crown and Cushion is that of a PUBLIC HOUSE. The only residential use of the building that can lawfully take place is residential use ancillary to the settled planning use. So, if active public house use stops for any significant length of time, so does the entitlement to live in any part of the property.
The position in law is very simple and set out in Planning Inspectorate Appeal Decisions Cleveland Arms ref: 3199253 paragraph 11 by Planning Inspector Thomas Shields MA DipURP MRTPI.
“The only residential use of the building which could lawfully take place would be a residential use ancillary to the main use as a PH, as previously existed before 3 January 2016. However, given the considerable length of time during which there has only
been an active residential use of the building, with no active use as a PH, the residential use is no longer an ancillary use; it has become the sole and primary use of the building. “
Yes. The freeholder does not have to open the Public House, and can leave it closed and unused if they so choose.
However, HDC’s Planning Enforcement Officer has advised they do not have an automatic right to use the property as a Dwellinghouse while it remains closed as a Public House.
Two key planning regulations [1&2] and one planning policy  apply to the Crown and Cushion PUBLIC HOUSE:
1) It is categorised in “Use Class Sui Generis - in a class on it’s own” as a PUBLIC HOUSE, thus can only be used as a Public House. (UK Statutory Instruments 2020 No. 757 Regulation 10)
2) It is listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) as a Public House. (Chapter 3 of Part 87 of the Localism Act 2011)
3) The Huntingdonshire Local Plan does not support change of use of Public Houses in communities unless reasonable steps have been taken to effectively market the property for its current use without success. (Huntingdonshire Local Plan, policy LP22, 15 May 2019
The ACV provisions give local groups (eg a parish council) a right to nominate a building or other land for listing by the local authority as an asset of community value. A building or other land in a local authority’s area is land of community value if in the opinion of the authority an actual current use of the building or other land that is not an ancillary use furthers the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community, and it is realistic to think that there can continue to be non-ancillary use of the building or other land which will further (whether or not in the same way) the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community.
Listing as an ACV brings a number of consequences:
a) A community right to bid should the asset be put on the market.
b) An ACV can be a material consideration in any planning request for change of use.
c) Compulsory purchase by the community.
Huntingdonshire List of Assets of Community Value (C&C is listed as Ref 55)
When a listed asset of community value comes to be sold, a moratorium on the sale (of up to six months) may be invoked, providing local community groups with a better chance to raise finance, develop a business and to make a bid to buy the asset on the open market. (Chapter 3 of Part 95 of the Localism Act 2011)
An ACV can be a material consideration in any planning request for change of use, for example to “Use Class C3”, a dwellinghouse. A local planning authority having granted an ACV would find it difficult to justify such a change of use. (Department for Communities and Local Government, Assets of Community Value – Policy Statement)
If requested and funded by a community group, councils have powers to compulsory purchase if the community use of the asset is in danger of being lost. (DLUHC - Guidance on Compulsory purchase process and The Crichel Down Rules, Section 17, 2015)
The Huntingdonshire Local Plan does not support change of use of Public Houses in communities unless reasonable steps have been taken to effectively market the property for its current use without success. (Huntingdonshire Local Plan, policy LP22, 15 May 2019)
Plunkett Foundation is a national charity that supports rural communities across the UK to tackle the issues they face when running a community business.
To date, Plunkett Foundation has supported more than 600 community businesses to reach trading stage across the UK. In addition to developing and safeguarding valuable assets and services, these community businesses address a range of issues including isolation, loneliness, well-being, work and training.
Plunkett provides practical advice, support and training to help communities establish and run successful community businesses with long term survival rates. Plunkett Foundation support 148 community pubs with a 100% success rate, 411 shops and numerous other community businesses.
The community ownership model has been very successful as it aims to fully engage the whole community in the success of a local enterprise.
Community businesses can be any type of business that trades products and services run by local people for the benefit of the local community. There’s a growing movement of communities taking back control of their local areas through business. Hundreds of thousands of people working to improve the places where they live – buying the last pub in the village, running their local shop, saving their public halls and local libraries.
For the legal ACV processes to work there has to be community activism and organisation. A number of recognised charities and government organisations offer guidance, material and financial support to groups engaged these activities. When acting within the guidance provided by these organisations, no harassment is taking place. The OTCC Committee is working closely with several not-for-profit groups as well as HDC and our elected council, county and MP representatives.
Some local community pubs founded on the Plunkett model:
The Three Tuns, Guilden Morden, Cambridgeshire
Hare & Hounds, Harlton, Cambridgeshire
Plough and Fleece Pub, Horningsea, Cambridgeshire
The Railway Arms Saffron Walden, Essex
Three Horseshoes Bumpstead, Essex
The Plunkett model is not the only one used for community ownership other community pubs in Cambridgeshire:
The White Swan, Connington
Grafham Trout, Grafham
Pheasant, Great Chishill
Royal Oak, Hail Weston
Lion, Ramsey St Marys
Dyke's End, Reach
Green Man, Thriplow
The “Community Ownership Fund” introduced in 2021, offers government finance of £250M to support community groups to take ownership of assets which are at risk of being lost to the community. It offers matching funds of up to £250k per project. It is running until 2024/25 with at least 8 bidding rounds.
£270,000. The title also has a “restriction” to ensure the local authority are notified of any sale so that the community can start the ACV “community right to bid” process.
Public Houses are among those types of property generally referred to as “trade related property”. They are normally bought and sold having regard to their trading potential. The valuation of a “trade related property” (ie Public Houses) depends on the “Fair Maintainable Operating Profit” (FMOP) derived from the “Fair Maintainable Turnover” (FMT) produced by a “Reasonably Efficient Operator” (REO).
Pubs are usually valued as a “fully equipped operational entity” with a full trade inventory and licences. Where this is not the case the valuation would be discounted to reflect the cost and time involved in purchasing and installing the trade inventory and obtaining new licences. (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors Guidance Note GN 67/2010)
Simply put, unlike private residential houses, Public Houses are valued based on the level of profit the business can generate if run by a competent landlord. The expectation is that a pub when sold is ready to do business. If the necessary equipment and licences are missing then the valuation will be reduced to cover the cost or reinstating those items.
A “Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors Red book valuation” is required to qualify for government “Community Ownership Fund” matched funding.
A change of use of land or buildings requires planning permission if it constitutes a material change of use. There is no statutory definition of ‘material change of use’; however, it is linked to the significance of a change and the resulting impact on the use of land and buildings. Whether a material change of use has taken place is a matter of fact and degree and this will be determined on the individual merits of a case.
The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987, as amended, groups common uses of land and buildings into classes. The uses within each class are, for planning purposes, considered to be broadly similar to one another.
The different use classes are:
Part B (Schedule 1)
Class B2 – General Industrial
Class B8 – Storage and distribution
Part C (Schedule 1)
Class C1 – Hotels
Class C2 – Residential institutions
Class C2A – Secure residential institutions
Class C3 – Dwellinghouses
Class C4 – Small Houses in multiple occupation
Part A (Schedule 2) Commercial, Business and Service
Class E – Commercial, Business and Service
Part B (Schedule 2) Local Community and Learning
Class F.1 Learning and non-residential institutions
Class F.2 Local community
Sui Generis (A class of its own kind)
Not all uses of land or buildings fit within the use classes order. When no use classes order category fits, the use of the land or buildings is described as sui generis, which means ‘of its own kind’. The uses identified as sui generis can include but is not limited to: theatres, public houses, hot food takeaways, petrol stations, taxi businesses, and casinos.
Any change of use, from one class to another, requires planning permission.
A planning contravention notice can be used to allow the local planning authority to require any information they want for enforcement purposes about any operations being carried out; any use of; or any activities being carried out on the land, and can be used to invite its recipient to respond constructively to the local planning authority about how any suspected breach of planning control may be satisfactorily remedied.
A planning contravention notice may only be served when it appears to the local planning authority that a breach of planning control may have occurred and they want to find out more information before deciding what if any enforcement action to take.
An enforcement notice is issued where the local planning authority is satisfied that it appears to them that there has been a breach of planning control and it is expedient to issue a notice, taking into account the provisions of the development plan and any other material considerations. The power to issue an enforcement notice is discretionary.
There is a range of ways of tackling alleged breaches of planning control, and local planning authorities should act in a proportionate way.
Failure to comply with enforcement would resulted in a criminal prosecution.
In most cases, development becomes immune from enforcement if no action is taken:
• within 4 years of substantial completion for a breach of planning control consisting of operational development;
• within 4 years for an unauthorised change of use to a single dwellinghouse;
• within 10 years for any other breach of planning control (essentially other changes of use not related to dwellinghouses).
(Section 171B of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990)
1. Early in the campaign. the Committee tried to engage with the current freeholders to try and work with them to open the Public House and engage with their community to improve their business model and chance for success. Several offers of assistance from individuals outside the committee were made to the freeholders but were rejected. The current freeholders have now asked the Committee not to contact them any further and this request will be respected going forward.
2. The Committee is working with Plunkett and CAMRA to ensure HDC’s Planning Enforcement team are using the commonly accepted precedents for interpretation of the applicable legislation when assessing the current use status of the property. CAMRA have advised It is not uncommon for local authorities to misinterpret the law and fail to act
correctly. CAMRA are working this issue on a country wide platform and are also providing us with specific help with HDC in regards to this case.
3. The Committee is working with our elected representatives HDC Cllr Richard West, County Cllr Stephen Ferguson and MP Jonathan Djanogly to ensure government policy is being implemented with respect to protecting community assets and encouraging community-based action to protect our rural communities, our wellbeing and our way of life.