Campaigners’ disappointment as plan to protect Southsea pub is rejected

A few of the regulars at the Eldon Arms   Picture: Habibur Rahman PPP-170114-223359006
A few of the regulars at the Eldon Arms Picture: Habibur Rahman PPP-170114-223359006
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A CAMPAIGN to list a pub as an asset of community value has failed – but campaigners say they will not give up the fight to protect their precious local.

The group – The Eldon Arms Community Preservation Society, or Teacups for short – started when the Eldon Arms in Southsea closed suddenly in December.

The Eldon Arms

The Eldon Arms

The pub, which is owned by the Ei Group, formerly known as Enterprise Inns, reopened a few weeks later.

Meanwhile, more than 70 regulars had started a campaign to get the council to list the pub as an Asset of Community Value.

It would have been the first pub to be given such a status by Portsmouth City Council and would mean that if it was put up for sale, the campaign group would be entitled to submit a bid and a six-month moratorium would kick in, giving supporters time to raise the necessary funds.

But Portsmouth City Council rejected the plan.

Pete Sanger, who led the campaign, said the regulars were disappointed to have their application turned down.

He said: ‘Portsmouth is probably the only local authority to have never granted an ACV, and if this decision is upheld, it seems likely that it never will.

‘The council has, by its decision, given the green light to pubcos such as Enterprise to continue their normal behaviour and bad business practices.’

In a statement to the group, Claire Upton-Brown, assistant director of culture and city development at the council, said the authority had rejected the application.

She said: ‘The Assets of Community Value aspect of the Localism Act came into being partly to save the last public house in a village. The rationale behind this is clearly understood, and such a public house could be seen as essential and something the community depend upon. But this would only be if the community used it.

‘Officer visits to the Eldon Arms demonstrated that patronage is very poor; on one evening it was even empty. This did not compare well with nearby public houses.’

She also went on to say that the council did not believe the pub was ‘essential to the character of the area.’

She added: ‘The building itself is already given a degree of protection by being in a conservation area and on the local list. What needed to be assessed was whether it fits the Portsmouth City Council policy for defining social interest/wellbeing. This states we must define the extent to which the community would be deprived of land or a building that is essential to the special character of the local area. It is clearly not essential, nor is it something the community use or depend upon.’

Mr Sanger said the group was now looking at other options to protect the pub, including putting in an appeal to the council.

He said: ‘We are currently looking into how we get the building listed by English Heritage, but it is not a process we are particularly knowledgeable about or comfortable with.

‘The pub history society has confirmed the frontage is probably unique in England, and that the single remaining Dortchester Ales window is probably the last one in existence. We will not give up our fight.’

Nigel Firth-Penney, from the Campaign for Real Ale, said assets of community value were good in theory.

But he said: ‘In practice it turns out to be very bureaucratic and time-consuming and that’s assuming you’ve got a council that will promote these ACVs in the first place.’